What Went Wrong: Babylon A.D.
By Shalimar Sahota
December 13, 2012
This will go into a few spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Babylon A.D. then just keep in mind that even the film’s own director would rather you didn’t see it.
Based on the novel Babylon Babies by Maurice G. Dantec, the book takes place during a fractured future, touching on geopolitics, war and religious ideas. The film seems to be but a fraction of the book. Set in the future (we don’t know what year exactly) Toorop (Vin Diesel), a mercenary living in New Serbia, is hired to escort a mysterious young woman, Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) to New York. Accompanying her is Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh). During their journey they are chased by various groups that also want Aurora… but who knows why.
Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, he also co-adapted the screenplay and produced the film. He had been involved with bringing the novel to the screen since 2002. Financing came through from Studio Canal and 20th Century Fox in 2005, with the film budgeted at $60 million. Shooting took place from December 2006 to May 2007; however, things did not go according to plan… assuming there was one to begin with.
In April 2007 it was reported that there were supposedly clashes between Diesel and Kassovitz, with Diesel sometimes turning up late to the set while Kassovitz would have a breakdown. These reports were denied by producer Alain Goldman, though he did mention Kassovitz’s temper on set, which was largely due to the film’s “tough schedule.” A report by the New York Post revealed that they were spending way too much time shooting on a soundstage in Prague and eventually had to be moved out by Disney, who needed it for their Chronicles of Narnia sequel, Prince Caspian. Goldman tried to keep things positive, saying that the film “is going to mark a new departure in action films.”
Babylon A.D. ended up falling behind schedule and going over budget, partly due to the inclusion of new scenes being inserted and also due to weather complications, such as a lack of snow for a chase sequence. Because of this, the film had to be bailed out by insurance company Film Finances Inc. Kassovitz would argue that one of the reasons why this happened was because the producers took over and wanted the film to have more action scenes. Notably, the inclusion of a car chase at the end of the film was apparently a decision by Fox to beef up the action (it’s also not present in the European version of the film).
A year later in April 2008 came the news that the film was being edited by Fox for the US. Originally expected to be released with an R rating, it appeared that Fox was cutting the film in order to obtain a PG-13, which they got. It also turned out that Europe was to receive a different version of the film - a slightly longer version.
Just days before its release, Kassovitz opened up about his experience working on Babylon A.D. in an interview with AMCTV, blasting the movie. “I’m very unhappy with the film,” he said. “I never had a chance to do one scene the way it was written or the way I wanted it to be. The script wasn’t respected.” Blaming bad producers and partners, he described his time on the film as “terrible.” Placing the blame with Fox as to why the film ended up the way it did, he said, “They made everything difficult from A to Z...I should have chosen a studio that has guts.” He called Babylon A.D., “pure violence and stupidity,” which is the kind of quote you’d expect to see on the cover of the DVD. He also revealed how originally the action scenes had a goal. “They were supposed to be driven by either a metaphysical point of view or experience for the characters... instead parts of the movie are like a bad episode of 24.”