Viking Reviews: Babylon

Sam Luba, Reporter


A love letter to cinema?

More like an incoherent text message sent by an 8-year-old with his first phone.

Legendary director, Damian Chazelle’s Babylon, is a mediocre attempt at capturing one of the most tumultuous times in Hollywood history, the 1920s.

The movie follows three main characters as their careers rise and fall in a new era of Hollywood.

This new era is marked mainly by the shift from silent films to movies with sound.

This change creates many issues and opportunities for our central trio to navigate throughout the film.

First, start with some praise: the cast in this film is phenomenal.

Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Diego Calva all bring immense life to their characters, and they truly carry the film for most of its runtime.

Another standout in the film was the visuals.

Babylon’s costume and set design were astounding, and they helped suck the viewer into that time of Hollywood.

One final piece of praise is the cinematography.

Similarly to Damian Chazelle’s masterpiece Whiplash, Babylon has gorgeous camera work, and some shots will genuinely take your breath away.

However, because of all that is so good about this movie, its flaws come out in earnest.

One of the biggest issues is simply its runtime.

This movie is over 3 hours long when it could easily have been cut down to just under two.

At a certain point, it begins to feel like the runtime is simply there to bait the audience into thinking the film is some grand and profound masterpiece.

Almost as if Chazzelle is attempting to bait out an Oscar nomination.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with making a great film and trying to win an award for it, but for that to be successful, your film must indeed be Oscar-worthy.

Unfortunately for Chazelle, Babylon simply is not.

The first third of the film provides a jolt of energy that helps it start strong, but as it lumbers on, the crazy scenarios and events that occur start to feel gratuitous.

Like craziness just for the sake of being crazy.

But then, after the assault of wild parties, events, and disasters, the movie grinds to a halt.

The second third of Babylon is tearfully dull, and at this point, the viewer is simply counting down the minutes until the end.

The movie tries to bring back some of the energy and shock it had at the beginning, but the audience couldn’t care less.

The movie jumps between visual overload and dreadful standstills with such force that it can feel like you’re watching two different movies.

What is so frustrating about Babylon is how good it could’ve, and should’ve, been.

Chazelle is a talented director who was given a star-studded cast and a massive budget.

But with all these tools, he tried to do too much.

Babylon is a movie that simply insists upon itself, trying to prove to the audience that it’s worthy of an Oscar instead of telling a gripping story and letting the awards come as they may.

Babylon, in this writer’s opinion, is a sad example of what Hollywood is becoming, an ironic fate for a movie said to be a “love letter to cinema”.

With all of this being said, art is subjective.

This film obviously has some value, and some may even love it.

If you want to check out the movie for yourself, it is still in theaters and can be seen in most major locations.