Spoilers ahead. Fairly be ye warned.
I love bad movies. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is one of my favorite TV shows. Movies like Ultraviolet, which is so over-the-top bad but still takes itself seriously, or like Shoot ‘Em Up, which knows that it is a terrible movie about shooting guns at people and so focuses entirely on being a movie about shooting guns at people. It’s awesome.
I love bad movies because I love to laugh at them. But a movie has to really hit it perfectly to be truly horrible. In a way, being so-bad-it’s-good is almost as hard as being genuinely good.
Babylon A.D., sadly doesn’t quite hit the mark, partly because the first part of the movie is actually decent. Not necessarily great, mind you, but decent. Mostly for the setting rather than any true goodness by way of characters or story, but I bought it.
Unfortunately, when it devolved into a load of senseless drivel, nobody alerted the crew. So even though the audience is sitting out there going, “Oh, God, this is shit,” the movie doesn’t realize it. Thus, we end up with a movie that is just plain bad.
In Babylon A.D., Toorop (why on earth do people in futuristic sci-fi movies never have normal names?) is a mercenary living in eastern Europe. Or maybe Russia. He’s hired to deliver a package to New York City in six days. The “package” turns out to be a woman named Aurora (where have I heard this one before?) and blah blah blah I’m sure you can figure out where it’s going from there. She’s more than she seems, they run into lots of danger on the way, and a big shadowy baddie is looking for her.
Yeah. I’ve never heard this one before.
First off, the cast. Michelle Yeoh is completely underutilized. You have a great actress who’s known for martial arts, and what do you do? Shoot action sequences like your cameraman and film editor both had the world’s worst case of ADHD and were addicted to crystal meth. You can’t see a damn thing that’s going on in any of them.
It also doesn’t help that the main villain is completely non-threatening. She’s a cold, ruthless bitch, but cold, ruthless bitches are not inherently threatening. At least, not when they can only spare two trucks of men to go after Toorop and Aurora. “Oops, that was it; guess I’ll just have to let them go.” Come on! You’re the villain! Let’s have a little dedication to the cause!
As you’ve probably guessed, the plot isn’t exactly gold star material either. The first part of story, when it’s just Toorop trying to do the job he was hired to do, is pretty good. It’s when we get to the last half to third of the movie that things just go flying off the track, and it quits making a damn lick of sense.
Why does our lead trio go from “reluctant alliance” to “happy drinking buddies” in less time than it takes you to say “massive tonal shift”?
Why did they nuke the convent?
Why did the main villain SHOOT the ONLY person who could’ve told her where Aurora was, and then proceed to send only two trucks of men after her? (Yes, this one bothered me.)
Who the hell thought “AI in babies” and “pregnancy by pill” were good plot points?
I’m not thinking about it anymore. It makes my brain hurt.
When you stop making sense, that’s when you need to go completely over the top and just acknowledge that people will probably laugh at you, but at least they’ll be entertained. Hell, just have the main character suddenly start riding velociraptors through Times Square while shooting a gun that resembles the BFG from Doom.
As my brother would say, “It’s shit, but it’s entertaining shit.”
The worst sin a movie can commit is to be boring. Babylon A.D. hits this mark right at the end, because we don’t know what’s going on, why, or why we should care. Be good, be bad, be silly, be funny, be bold, be loud, be dumb. Just don’t. be. boring.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch some Ghost in the Shell to remind myself of what good science fiction is.