'Babylon' Early Reactions: Critics call Damien Chazelle's polarizing ode to cinema a 'flaming hot mess'

From 'dazzling' to an 'ambitious mess', Damien Chazelle's upcoming movie 'Babylon' seems to be his most polarizing one yet

'Babylon' Early Reactions: Critics call Damien Chazelle's polarizing ode to cinema a 'flaming hot mess'
Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy and Diego Calva as Manny Torres in 'Babylon' (Paramount Pictures)
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French-American filmmaker Damien Chazelle took the world by storm with his extraordinary drama film ‘Whiplash’ and hasn’t looked back since then. His next directorial ‘La La Land’ would go on to create a record for having 14 nominations at the Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He received more critical success with the ‘First Man’ and it doesn’t come as a shock now that every time he announces a project there is a sense of anticipation among the moviegoers. That’s why there’s a lot of buzz around his upcoming movie ‘Babylon’, which is an ode to the initial period of Hollywood. The movie was screened to a handful number of critics recently and the first wave of reactions is finally out. Will this be another success for Chazelle? Let’s take a look.

The upcoming movie delves into the early years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Set in the 1920s, the film follows the transition of the movie industry from silent films to talkies. ‘Babylon’ will see the rise and fall of several characters that are considered to be a perfect blend of real and fictional characters. With the movie exploring many themes, the first wave of reactions indicates that it’s set to become the most polarizing movie of Chazelle’s career.

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A still from Damien Chazelle's 'Babylon' (Paramount Pictures)
A still from Damien Chazelle's 'Babylon' (Paramount Pictures)

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Kyle Buchanan of The New York Times was moved by the movie and gave it a positive review. He wrote, “That indescribable feeling we get when the lights begin to dim and an elephant shits directly into the camera lens. Not just entertained, but somehow reborn together. Dazzling images of someone getting a golden shower. Sound that I can feel.”


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Meanwhile, Jeff Nelson from Cheat Sheet believed that ‘Babylon’ is a ‘daring epic’ that will shock everyone. He also praised Margot Robbie and Diego Calva for their stupendous performances. Nelson wrote, “#Babylon/#BabylonMovie is a daring Hollywood epic that utterly shocks the senses. Margot Robbie and Diego Calva give huge performances. Damien Chazelle incorporates his signature musicality and movement throughout. Justin Hurwitz’s score is one hell of a wall of sound.”

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On the other hand, movie critic Scott Menzel called it an “ambitious mess” of a film and said that the tone is “all over the place.” He added, “Babylon is an ambitious mess of a film. I don’t even know where to begin with this one but the tone is all over the place. Margot Robbie tries but the script fails her. A love letter to cinema that made me hate cinema.”

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Eric Weber, the Editor of Awards Ace, called ‘Babylon’ one of the ‘worst films’ of 2022. He added, “I have some really — really — bad news to share with you, #Babylon’s a flaming hot mess, a tonal disaster, easily Damien Chazelle’s worst film & one of the worst films of 2022.”

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On the other side of the spectrum, Variety’s Senior Editor Clayton Davis relished the film and didn’t shy away from calling ‘Babylon’ the ‘internet’s new favorite movie of all-time'. He wrote, “#Babylon feels like if someone read Damien Chazelle the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and then he said, "hold my beer!" High-octane, cocaine-inducing trip. First half is great. Likely the internet's new favorite movie of all time. Margot Robbie and Justin Hurwitz are your stars.”

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The movie seems to have divided the critics and the reactions have been all over the place. However, Margot Robbie and Diego Calva seem to be getting all the praise for their acting. Apart from Robbie and Calva, the movie also stars Brad Pitt, Tobey Maguire, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, Jean Smart, and Max Minghella in pivotal roles.

With ‘Babylon’ set to premiere just before Christmas, the polarizing reviews might put a dent in the movie’s chance to create buzz during the awards season. Will ‘Babylon’ be received well by the viewers? Let’s wait and watch.

Damien Chazelle’s ‘Babylon’ is slated to hit theatres on Friday, December 23, 2022.

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