Vin Diesel returned to the big screen in 2008 in Babylon A.D. - a Sci-Fi post-apocalyptic flick in which he is tasked with delivering a young woman named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) from Russia to America. His name is Toorop, and he's a veteran mercenary who seems to be tired of war and looks to this job as an opportunity to get to America.
Toorop is tasked to do this by who seems to be the biggest gangster in the war-torn and over-populated city where he lives. It's a big payday and a chance to leave this place behind. Toorop is taken to an ancient monastery far away from the slums to pick up Aurora and her guardian Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh). While Rebeka gives off a vibe of being able to protect herself, Aurora has been very much sheltered from the world - we get a sense that there is something special about her.
The bulk of the film is basically the story of their attempts to get out of the country despite an opposing force trying to capture Aurora as well. It's actually pretty effective during this majority part of the movie, including a number of great action scenes involving a cage fight, escape from a refugee camp and a snowmobile chase.
The movie completely shifts gears when they finally make it to New York City, where the leader of a psuedo-religion wants Aurora for some mysterious reason - which she is certain will give their movement the final push it needs to lock its position of power in the world.
Over the course of the film all three major characters go through changes and they come to trust each other despite Toorop's ice-cold "trust no one" worldview.
This film had a lot of behind the scenes controversy, with French director Mathieu Kassovitz ending up livid at 20th Century Fox for their intrusion into the filmmaking process and the cuts they made to the film. Unfortunately I never saw the theatrical version so I don't know how this "Raw & Uncut" version of the film compares. I'll say that it wasn't really that bad, however I probably wouldn't buy this. If you can rent it in the Blu-Ray format however, I think it's worth watching once.
The audio and the picture on this disc are impressive, with lots of use of surround and great panoramic vistas that always look fantastic in Hi-Def. It has quite a few special features:
There is an 11 minute interview with the author of the story the film is based on, "Babylon Babies," Maurice Georges Dantec. If you can get past the pretensions of the guy (sunglasses during an interview, oddly greasy "I am cool" hair) he actually gives some interesting background about the story. The interview however actually left me feeling like his story must have started at the exact moment the film most oddly ends.
The features also include a look at the shooting of the "Arctic Escape" scenes "Flight of the Hummers" and other features on the film's big stunt scenes. In addition there's also a 5 minute video comic about Aurora that serves as a prequel to the film. One thing that's missing is a director's commentary, which in the case of this film considering its history would have been very interesting to hear. Of course it's not surprising that such a commentary isn't on the film considering Fox produced the disc. :-P
What I didn't like about the Blu-Ray version was that I couldn't hit the "Play" button to see how far along I was in the film - no pop-up progress bar. Also the menu picks were extremely small and hard to navigate, even on my 60" HDTV.
Overall I'd say this film isn't nearly as awful as everyone makes it out to be, except for the rather abrupt ending that leaves you feeling like a bunch more of the movie is missing.