Babylon A.D. is a 2008 French science fiction action film based on the novel Babylon Babies by Maurice Georges Dantec. The film was directed by Mathieu Kassovitz and stars Vin Diesel. It was released on 29 August 2008 in the United States.
The film is set in an anomic landscape in 2058. Hugo Toorop (Vin Diesel), a former smuggler and now a mercenary, is approached by a Russian mobster, named Gorsky (GÃ©rard Depardieu), who instructs him to take a young woman (MÃ©lanie Thierry) to New York City. During the trip, the teen demonstrates unusual powers and knowledge, and Toorop learns about her mysterious past.
In 2058, the United States and Russia have distanced themselves from each another, and the world has once again been divided into Western and Eastern blocs, as the world enters the second Cold War. While the United States has developed significantly into a powerful, futuristic, and technological utopia, Russia has reverted to communism and rapidly decayed into an impoverished, lawless, and crime-ridden dystopia.
Hugo Toorop (Vin Diesel) is a former smuggler and now a mercenary who used to smuggle people to the West, mostly to the United States. But he was branded as a terrorist, and as such he was deported from the country, forbidden to enter again. He has not been smuggling for the last 10 years and now lives a quiet life in the slums of decaying dystopian Belgrade, Serbia, in a small apartment while doing regular mercenary jobs and providing himself with hunted animals and weaponry sold at the flea markets around the city.
One day, he is approached by a powerful Russian mobster named Gorsky (GÃ©rard Depardieu) who instructs him to take a young woman known only as Aurora (MÃ©lanie Thierry) from a small Noelite temple to New York City. In order to reach this goal, Gorsky gives Toorop a variety of weapons as well as a UN passport that has to be injected under the skin of the neck, and which is so advanced that it's known to be impossible to fake it. Toorop, along with the girl and her guardian, Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh), travel from the Noelite convent in Kyrgyzstan to reach New York via Russia in a heavily armored vintage GAZ Chaika 14.
The towns and cities of Russia have been turned into dangerous, overpopulated slums by war and terrorist activity, forcing Toorop, Aurora, and Rebeka to face dangers of the human element, while fleeing from an unknown group of mercenaries claiming to have been sent by Aurora's supposedly dead father. The stress of humanity's situation causes Aurora to act out in strange ways that neither Toorop nor Rebeka can explain. On one such occasion, Aurora inexplicably panics in a crowd outside a train station, seconds before a bomb explodes.
Later, after boarding a train, they arrive at Vladivostok, where they meet with Toorop's old partner, Finn (Mark Strong). He leads them east, where they board a submarine that carries refugees to Canada. However, to avoid satellite detection, the submarine can be surfaced for no more than two minutes and is forced to leave some behind, even resorting to shooting them. Aurora, infuriated by the loss of life, starts to operate the 30-year-old submarine, without having ever learned anything about it.
Sister Rebeka explains to Toorop that Aurora could speak 19 different languages by the age of two, and always seems to know things she has never learned. Three months before leaving with Toorop, she had begun acting in ways she never had before. This occurred after a visit by a Noelite doctor who had administered a pill to Aurora. The doctor told her to go to New York City and arranged for Gorsky to take her to New York, and as such, Gorsky hired Toorop personally, knowing he would be able to take the job.
The trio arrives in New York, where they find refuge in Toorop's old apartment in a revitalized Harlem. However, they hear a news broadcast about the bombing of the convent, causing the group to realize that there is more going on than they know. The Noelites have become a major new salvationist religion, which vast numbers of people cling to as the world spirals out of control. However, in private meetings, it is seen that their High Priestess is motivated to gain power, and uses invented miracles to convert people to her religion. Gorsky, working for the Noelites, had planted a tracking device in Toorop's passport, and then bombed the convent once they were in the United States. The doctor who earlier saw Aurora in the convent then appears to examine her again. When he leaves, Aurora reveals (without being told) that she is pregnant with twins, even though she is a virgin.
Looking outside, Toorop sees Gorsky's men, as well as the Noelite group, heavily armed and waiting for them. The High Priestess then calls Toorop and asks him to bring Aurora outside. Just before they take her away, Toorop changes his mind and starts a firefight with the two groups, with the ultimate goal of getting the two women to safety. However, because of the tracking devices, Gorsky's men can lock onto Toorop with tracking rockets. Rebeka is shot and killed defending Aurora, who in turn shoots Toorop, saying only, "I need you to live." Left undirected by Toorop's dying, the rocket goes off target and explodes near Aurora instead. However, Aurora survives the rocket explosion by uncertain means.
Despite being dead for two hours, Toorop's body is revived by Dr. Arthur Darquandier (Lambert Wilson), using advanced medical techniques, but Toorop's right arm and left leg are replaced by cybernetics. Darquandier explains that when Aurora was a fetus, he enhanced her by using a supercomputer to 'implant' intelligence into her brain. It is also implied that the Noelite group had him create Aurora to become pregnant at a certain time in order to use her as a 'virgin birth' for their religion, and for his sake. After she was born, the Noelites hired Gorsky to kill Darquandier, but failed. Darquandier remained hidden and was believed dead until he found his daughter in Russia with Toorop.
Doctor Darquandier uses a device to play back Toorop's memory to find what Aurora said to him before Toorop 'died.' In Toorop's memory, Aurora tells Toorop to "go home." Toorop, as well as several of Darquandier's men, leave the facility. En route to Darquandier's lab, the High Priestess calls Gorsky and argues with him over his failure to kill Darquandier, at which point Gorsky is killed by a nuclear missile sent to his location by the High Priestess. Darquandier is also later killed by the High Priestess, but it is too late, since Toorop has already escaped.
Toorop goes home to a farm in upstate New York, where he finds Aurora and takes her to a hospital where she dies after giving birth. Aurora was "designed to breed," not to live, so her death at childbirth was pre-programmed. Toorop is left to take care of her two daughters who regard him as their father. Ten years later, it is revealed that she had given birth to a white and a black twin. Toorop has rebuilt his farm and is now their "father." He warmly leads the children back into the house, saying that there is a storm coming.
- Vin Diesel as Hugo Toorop, a mercenary (full name is "Hugo Cornelius Toorop" in Babylon Babies novel). He is a professional smuggler from New York county, who has been deported from the United States and does mercenary odd jobs from time to time and has experience with smuggling, advanced weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, tactics and culinary.
- Michelle Yeoh as Sister Rebeka, a Mongolian Noelite nun and refugee. She is from San Francisco, and she was almost killed by her abusive boyfriend. Terrified by the cruel world, she left the United States and went to Mongolia to seek refuge with the Noelites and became Aurora's guardian.
- MÃ©lanie Thierry as Aurora, a young woman within the Noelite shelter. She is "different" from other people, having knowledge in fields that she doesn't even know about or has experience. She speaks 19 languages, has a variety of knowledge of machinery, weaponry and can sense danger, all of which she never experienced.
- GÃ©rard Depardieu as Gorsky, a wealthy Russian mobster who hired Toorop to transport Aurora to the United States. He is a very powerful man who was deported to the East for his criminal career, and he personally tried to kill Darquandier. He has his own private army and he lives in his heavily armored truck fitted like a limo, always surrounded by a convoy of his soldiers.
- Charlotte Rampling as the Noelite High Priestess and CEO of the Noelite church who does not care or believe in religion, only power, fame, and fortune. She pays scientists to produce fake miracles in order to make hers the dominant religion. One of these miracles was for Aurora to be created as a female for a virgin birth and the focus of the Noelite's 'miracle day'.
- Mark Strong as Finn, a Russian smuggler and old colleague of Toroop, although Toorop's knowledge and experience leads him not to believe anyone, not even Finn. This is proven correct when he is forced to kill Finn.
- Lambert Wilson as Dr. Arthur Darquandier, Aurora's father thought to be dead.
- David Belle as Hacker Kid, leader of a group following the trio to America and Darquandier's henchman.
- JÃ©rÃ´me Le Banner as Killa, an underground fighter.
Mathieu Kassovitz developed an English-language film adaptation of Maurice Georges Dantec's French novel Babylon Babies for five years; in June 2005, this project got financed from StudioCanal and Twentieth Century Fox. The adapted screenplay was written by Kassovitz and screenwriter Ãric Besnard. Production was initially slated to begin in February 2006 in Canada and Eastern Europe. French actor Vincent Cassel was initially sought to be cast in the lead role. In February 2006, actor Vin Diesel entered negotiations to star in the film, titled Babylon A.D., dropping out of the lead role of Hitman in the process. Production of the futuristic thriller about genetic manipulation was slated to begin in June 2006. By February 2007, filming was slated to wrap in April to release Babylon A.D. in time for the coming Thanksgiving. In February, filming took place at Barrandov Studios. In March 2007, the filming crew, having shot in the Czech Republic, took a two-week hiatus to deal with uncooperative weather, such as the lack of snow, and problems with set construction. Crew members scouted Iceland for locations with snow to shoot six to eight days of footage, which was supposed to be done in February. Filming was also done with the leads Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, and MÃ©lanie Thierry in Ostrava in March. The French visual effects company BUF Compagnie was contracted to develop the film's effects under the supervision of Stephane Ceretti.
In April 2007, Babylon A.D. was reported to be over-budget and three weeks behind schedule. A lack of snow meant a skiing sequence to be shot in Eastern Europe had to be moved to Sweden. Later in the month, actor Lambert Wilson was cast into the film. Filming was completed in May 2007.
American artist Khem Caigan designed the sigil that appears as a tattoo on the right side of Toorop's neck â" an emblem which originally appeared in the Schlangekraft Necronomicon in 1977.
Mathieu Kassovitz said that 20th Century Fox interfered throughout production, and he never had a chance to shoot a scene the way it was scripted, or the way he wanted it to be.
The music of Babylon A.D. was written by Icelandic composer Atli Ãrvarsson. The music supervisor of the movie was JÃ©rÃ´me Hadey. The musical alliance Achozen, represented by Shavo Odadjian and RZA performed the score for the film. Music producer Hans Zimmer described the intended style: "Musically, our objective was to merge the sounds and energies of hip hop with classical music, seamlessly melting them into an unusual soundscape."
Babylon A.D. was originally stated to be released in the United States on 29 February 2008, but its release was postponed to 29 August 2008. As of 31 January 2009, the film grossed US$72,105,690. In the US the film was placed #2 behind Tropic Thunder with $9,484,267 in 3,390 cinemas with a $2,798 average.
The film was generally panned by critics. Metacritic compiled a 26% rating based on 15 reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 6% approval rating based on 100 reviews (94 negative, 6 positive) with the consensus calling it "A poorly constructed, derivative sci-fi stinker with a weak script and poor action sequences."
Blu-ray and DVD
Babylon A.D. was released on Blu-ray and DVD in Europe (Region 2) on 29 December 2008, and in the United States (Region 1) on 6 January 2009. At the same time, the French 101 minute version was released on Blu-ray in the US as Babylon A.D. â" Raw and Uncut.
- Babylon A.D. at the Internet Movie Database
- Babylon A.D. at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Babylon A.D. in the British Film Institute's "Explore film..." database
- Babylon A.D. at the British Board of Film Classification
- Babylon A.D. at AllMovie
- Babylon A.D. at Metacritic
- Babylon A.D. at Rotten Tomatoes
- Babylon A.D. at Box Office Mojo