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Damien Chazelle
Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva
Writing Credits:
Damien Chazelle

A tale of outsized ambition and outrageous excess, Babylon traces the rise and fall of multiple characters during an era of unbridled decadence and depravity in early Hollywood.

Box Office:
$80 million.
Opening Weekend:
$3,603,368 on 3343 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English Dolby Atmos
English Audio Description
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Canadian Dolby 5.1
Brazilian Portuguese Dolby 5.1
French Canadian
Brazilian Portuguese
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish
French Canadian
Brazilian Portuguese

Runtime: 188 min.
Price: $31.99
Release Date: 3/21/2023

• “A Panoramic Canvas” Featurette
• “The Costumes of Babylon” Featurette
• “Scoring Babylon” Featurette
• Deleted/Extended Scenes


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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Babylon [Blu-Ray] (2022)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 12, 2023)

When we last saw filmmaker Damien Chazelle via 2018’s First Man, he directed a tale about the history of the Apollo missions. He returns with 2022’s Babylon, a story that examines the Hollywood of the 1920s.

Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) offers a brash presence. She comes to Hollywood and seems willing to do whatever it takes to become a star.

Mexican Manny Torres (Diego Calva) also dreams of success in movies behind the camera. He gets a boost when he meets aging matinee idol Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt).

This relationship allows Manny to work on various sets and move up the ladder of opportunity. All these characters and more cross paths through this decadent era of early Hollywood, one soon roiled by the introduction of talking pictures.

If you think that synopsis feels vague, then I agree. Babylon doesn’t offer an especially plot-heavy affair, so I opted for “short ‘n’ loose” rather than “long ‘n’ tedious”.

In addition to Manny, Nell and Jack, we get a slew of other characters in this ensemble piece. Some feature more heavily than others but the film spreads around different roles in a broad manner.

None of this lends itself toward a concise, taut tale. Instead, Babylon presents a sprawling tale that Chazelle clearly hopes will become an epic classic.

Unfortunately, Chazelle falls short of these goals, mainly because he can’t find a particularly coherent narrative. As noted, Babylon spreads itself thin across its many characters, and Chazelle fails to balance them in an especially smooth manner.

Babylon also suffers because Chazelle makes so many obvious nods toward so many earlier movies. Of course, the influence of 1952’s classic Singin’ in the Rain becomes most apparent.

Chazelle barely attempts to hide his nods toward that film. Babylon includes scenes that nearly come lifted straight from Rain, and the inclusion of a production number that uses the 1952 movie’s title track makes these lifts even more obvious – as does a scene at Babylon’s end that makes these subtextual allusions literal.

I won’t spell out that last element in the interest of spoiler avoidance, but it seems like an awfully on the nose choice. On one hand, it feels bold of Chazelle to so openly acknowledge his debt to Rain, but on the other hand, it seems bizarre to make this so obvious.

Beyond Rain, Chazelle demonstrates a slew of other influences. The opening party – which fills nearly half an hour of running time – comes across like an “X”-rated nod toward the wedding in 1972’s Godfather, and Chazelle’s fascination with movie shoots echoes Hail, Caesar!, 2016’s Coen brothers love letter to Hollywood of the 1950s.

The farther into Babylon we go, though, another initially less obvious inspiration materializes: 1997’s Boogie Nights. As we follow the highs and eventual lows of the main characters, Babylon becomes exceedingly evocative of Nights, with a late scene that highly reminds us of the latter’s Alfred Molina segment.

Somewhere buried beneath all these influences, Chazelle wants to make a point about society and Hollywood and movies. However, he finds himself unable to bring things together in a coherent manner.

Which leads us back to the basic self-indulgence at the core of Babylon. This element that becomes clear literally from the movie’s start.

Babylon, we get a close-up of an elephant’s anus and then see said butthole expel massive quantities of feces over a man.

Less than five minutes into Babylon, we see a woman urinate over the enormous belly of a naked obese man.

I guess Chazelle intends these scenes to send us to “not in Kansas” mode. He wants to paint the era’s decadence and depravity and tells us right out of the gate to expect a graphic, unfiltered view.

Which seems fine, but it also ultimately feels superfluous to the movie's purpose and message. The perversion on display does little to serve the overall narrative and comes across more as Chazelle’s attempt to shock the audience right out of the gate than anything valuable.

Chazelle settles down after that opening half-hour and other than a few exceptions, he avoids this unnecessarily tawdry material. However, he never settles into a real groove, as he fails to present a story with an especially coherent plot.

Oh, Chazelle throws themes at us, but they seem haphazard and without real clarity. At times he toys with issues of equality, especially in the poor way Hollywood treated women and minorities – with an obvious reminder that those groups don’t fare that much better almost a century later.

Unfortunately, Chazelle merely dabbles in these tones. He never develops them in a compelling manner.

Again, Chazelle never brings together Babylon as a full package period. He simply throws a lot at the wall and hopes it’ll stick.

Which a fair amount of it does. Despite all the flaws I note, Babylon remains pretty darned watchable most of the time.

Granted, the extreme running time hurts it. Whereas Chazelle seems to believe the “epic treatment” adds depth, instead it simply threatens to exhaust the viewer, and we find plenty of scenes that seem superfluous.

Nonetheless, Chazelle does get credit for the fact that Babylon remains largely involving despite its sprawling mess of a story and its extended length. It does lose steam as it goes, partly because it gets more serious and loses the wild ramshackle nature of the first two hours.

Still, much of Babylon seems entertaining. That becomes an obvious positive.

Chazelle also amasses a stunning cast here. In addition to those already mentioned, we find folks like Jean Smart, Olivia Wilde, Eric Roberts, Tobey Maguire, PJ Byrne, Max Minghella, Jeff Garlin, Katharine Waterston, and many more.

Indeed, in arguably the movie’s most clever moment, we find Samara Weaving as an actor whom Nellie doubles. Given that so many believe Robbie and Weaving look identical, this inside joke delights.

Ultimately, Babylon delivers a reasonably entertaining movie but not one that flirts with greatness. It simply seems too self-indulgent and messy to hit the highs it hopes to achieve.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

Babylon appears in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite a few anomalies, the image usually worked well.

This meant a handful of oddly soft shots. Granted, these seemed intentional, but they didn’t appear to make a lot of sense and occasionally distracted.

Still, most of the film appeared well-defined. Even with the variations, this usually turned into a pretty concise presentation.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Outside of a couple tiny specks, print flaws remained absent.

The opening act opened for an intensely orange vibe, and that tone cropped up occasionally through the rest of the film. However, the palette veered less heavy-handed, with occasional exceptions.

This left much of the movie with a mix of amber/orange and teal. The hues lacked creativity – and that overwhelming orange seemed borderline comical at times – but the disc replicated the hues as intended.

Blacks seemed deep and dense, while shadows offered appealing smoothness and clarity. Even with the softness, this was a largely positive presentation.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the film’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack offered a surprisingly engaging mix. Though inherently a character story, the audio opened up with a lot of pizzazz.

Music used the channels in a vivid, engaging manner, and various effects spread around the room to fill out the tale. While the movie lacked real standout moments, the spectrum became broad and involving on a consistent basis.

Audio quality worked well, with speech that seemed natural and concise. Music felt full and vibrant as well.

Effects boasted fine clarity, with crisp highs and warm lows. I felt pleased with this strong soundtrack.

No extras appear on the movie disc, but we get a second platter devoted to supplements, and there we start with A Panoramic Canvas Called Babylon. It runs 30 minutes, 50 seconds and offers notes from writer/director Damien Chazelle, producers Matthew Plouffe and Marc Platt, editor Tom Cross, cinematographer Linus Sandgren, production designer Florencia Martin, location manager Chris Baugh, costume designer Mary Zophres, composer Justin Hurwitz, and actors Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Olivia Hamilton, Jean Smart, Olivia Wilde, Eric Roberts, Tobey Maguire, Diego Calva, Li Jun Li, and Jovan Adepo.

“Canvas” examines Hollywood in the era depicted, story/characters, cast and performances, cinematography, sets and locations, costumes, music, and general thoughts.

We get a decent array of insights here. Unfortunately, they come with a lot of self-praise as well, so expect a lot of happy talk.

The Costumes of Babylon spans two minutes, 51 seconds and involves Chazelle, Zophres, Robbie, Calva, Li, Smart and Adepo. Expect a short view of the leads’ clothes but the clip ends too quickly for much depth.

Next comes Scoring Babylon, a one-minute, 50-second reel with Chazelle, Hurwitz, Hamilton, Robbie, Pitt, and Adepo. Anticipate general – and laudatory – notes about the movie’s music.

Six Deleted and Extended Scenes occupy a total of nine minutes, 15 seconds. Four of these fall into the “deleted” category, while “Elinor Chats With Extra” and “Powder Room” wind up as “extended”.

Half of these add a bit to secondary characters, whereas the others add a little depth to the relationships experienced by Manny. “Extra” seems superfluous but charming, whereas the others tend to seem gratuitous.

A look at Hollywood in the late 1920s, Babylon manages enough spark and energy to mean it keeps the viewer with it across more than three hours. However, it also proves tremendously self-indulgent and it feels derivative in the way it echoes prior – and better – movies. The Blu-ray delivers largely positive picture and audio with a moderate set of supplements. The film generally works but it comes with too many problems to seem truly successful.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
2 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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