Babylon ★★½

Honestly no idea how many stars to give this misbegotten hybrid of directorial masterwork and hacky cliché-fest. The first two(!) hours of this 189 minute behemoth are so go-for-broke, bananas brilliant that you’re holding on for dear life with sheer excitement; there’s not a movie like this in recent memory—at least not until the last hour. As that final, interminable, hat-upon-a-hat-upon-a-hat final third slogs along, you’re left wondering if someone else is at the helm entirely, maybe some kind of Midjourney/Stable Diffusion/ChatGPT simulacrum of Damien Chazelle, one who looked and talked and maybe even directed and edited more or less just like him, but who totally lacked the human spark—and artistic decision-making skills—that undergirded the first 120 minutes. The contrast between these two parts of the movie is ridiculously stark, really; you almost can’t believe a movie could start off so unbelievably well and then end in such disappointingly shambolic fashion. There’s a two-hour cut of this film that does sway with all of extraneous, redundant, unnecessary “resolutions” that I would have loved, though.

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