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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Ladies and gentlemen, we have the movie that the director of THE FIFTH ELEMENT makes eight years after he sees AVATAR. One of the first scenes in Luc Besson’s VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, the one right after the title, brings us to the island paradise planet of Mul, where elongated, glittery-skinned beauties with star-shaped irises fill their giant shell backpacks with pearls, and they feed one to a little pangolin-like creature who puffs up and starts pooping duplicate pearls from under his scales that drop into a hole as an offering to the planet, but suddenly the skies are darkened by an apocalyptic event and the destruction of the planet wakes up our hero Valerian (Dane DeHaan, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES) while he’s napping on a beach chair somewhere. And at some point in the middle of that you realize that this is by far the most French-comic-book movie ever made.

And it continues like that, a two hour, 17 minute non-stop kaleidoscope-fantasia-carnival-parade of colorful creatures and planets and space ships and gimmicks inspired by the comics series Valérian and Laureline (1967-2010). The titleistical City of a Thousand Planets (Alpha for short) is a gigantic space station that started out by uniting representatives of every country on Earth, but kept expanding to encompass alien cultures. And since much of the movie takes place on this multi-species megalopolis, this intergalactic Epcot Center, it’s like a marathon of STAR WARS cantina scene after STAR WARS cantina scene.

For example:

And you know what’s exciting? Movies are colorful again! There was such a long stretch when everybody wanted to desaturate their movies so much they were practically black and white, or tint them one color (usually blue). That seems to be changing. I’m digging the pinball machine/rock album cover aesthetics of this year’s Marvel movies, and now Besson shows us what a thousand planets worth of colors looks like.

You want to see crazy alien designs? There’s the opening handshake montage of the founding of the city. There’s the Jedi Council-like circle of leaders, where my favorite looks like he’s made out of candy. There’s the red light district where our hero is solicited by a wide selection of prostitutes designed for any fetish. One of them has made herself into Jessica Rabbit! Interesting that that movie lasts and transcends planetary cultures. (Weirdly, Wyclef Jean’s “Stayin’ Alive” song also survives.)

It seems like there are a couple STAR WARS episodes worth of designs for creatures, ships, robots, weapons and uniforms. It’s as bugnuts goofy as JUPITER ASCENDING, but to me it’s much more visually and narratively appealing.

Oh yeah – I should mention that there’s a story and characters! Valerian and Laureline (Cara Delevigne, SUICIDE SQUAD) are cocky, flirtatious young government agents on a mission to steal a converter (which is not a device, but one of those pearl shitting pets I mentioned) from an alien gangster with the voice of John Goodman (DEATH SENTENCE, THE FLINTSTONES). This happens in an action sequence unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It takes place at a spot called “Big Market,” which is a large fenced off patch of desert, but visitors wear goggles that allow them to see into another dimension for their shopping needs. And Valerian has to carry a box designed to transport objects between the dimensions so that he can reach through with his gun to shoot at people. Also this scene involves magnetic metal balls that you shoot at people to weigh them down so much they break through the floor.

If you are looking for a movie where a guy gets cocooned but he has a breather in his mouth that emits a robotic spider that crawls out and uses a laser to cut open the cocoon, this is in the top 5 for sure.

Also if you are looking for a movie where space agents are sent on missions by a holographic Herbie Hancock (‘ROUND MIDNIGHT), in my opinion this is one of your best bets this summer.

NOTE: When Besson first tried to make THE FIFTH ELEMENT in 1992, Prince was cast as Ruby Rhod. But Herbie Hancock as a space commander is much more random. I love knowing that either Besson or his casting director or someone had to have thought “I see Herbie Hancock in this role.” Because I’m guessing he didn’t read the script and love it and beg for an audition. I do wish he had a keyboard and those mannequin parts from the “Rock-It” video with him, but beggars can’t be choosers.

You’ll also see a little Clive Owen and Rutger Hauer and I guess TRANSPORTER directors Louis Leterrier and Olivier Megaton play captains too. Eventually Ethan Hawke pops up in a light-up jacket as “Jolly the Pimp” and it’s just as joyful as that sounds, though I wish he was in the movie longer. Same goes for Rihanna as the shapeshifting performance artist Bubble, a standout character.

The tone is lighter and jokier than THE FIFTH ELEMENT, more like a screwball comedy with the quipping lovers, and the humor is generally less groan-worthy. I’m talking about things like Corben’s mom chewing out the president on the phone and the priest fainting and that kind of stuff, not Ruby Rhod, who I was hoping would show up on a TV screen or something here. If there were any FIFTH ELEMENT references I missed them, though I did notice some guys at the beginning who looked similar to the Mondoshawan.

But in the end SPOILER there’s a serious thread that really works. The whole thing turns out to revolve around collateral damage from one spaceship shot down in a gigantic space battle. In all the star wars that we’ve seen in all the STAR WARSes I’m not sure I ever considered some random planet getting fucked over from some falling debris. That’s just one of a whole litany of cool concepts in this that I can’t remember seeing in other sci-fi movies. It’s also refreshing that the Pearls, as the people of Mul are called, are a peaceful culture. They do have spears, but they never turn into vengeful warriors, even when guns are pointed at them. You don’t see that too often. Usually in genre movies everyone has to carry a big stick. Even the Gungans and the Ewoks go to war. The Pearls aren’t trying to fight anyone, they’re just trying to get the means to terraform a new home. Until then, like many refugees, they have formed a new community in a big, multi-cultural city.

I’ve talked to people who didn’t like VALERIAN, specifically because they thought DeHaan sucked. I get it – if it was somebody of say a Chris Pratt level of charisma this might even be a hit movie. I also kinda wished that Hawke and Rihanna were the leads. DeHaan talks in a young-Keanu/Chris Klein/Paul Walker dumb guy voice that’s odd for this very capable character. I kept hoping he’d say “I am an F.B.I. agent!” I agree that he’s the movie’s biggest weakness, but he was better than I expected, honestly, and gets a couple good laughs.

I disagree with criticisms of the writing. I think it’s a very effective version of the BARBARELLA type of psychedelic spacetrotting adventure. Being crazy and episodic is a feature, not a bug, and Besson keeps it from getting repetitive. They fight monsters and gangsters and armies, travel galaxies and dimensions, go underwater, experience many creatures and cultures, learn lessons and advance their relationship, and yet this is not, like, saving the galaxy from impending doom or anything like that. It’s just one case. On to the next one.

(I wish. The movie has totally flopped. But I’m glad Besson got to make one.)

It’s funny how something like a miscasting can hobble a movie when it’s the big new release, but a couple years or less from now it won’t even seem very relevant to people who will obsess over the film’s uniqueness. If you can enjoy a fully visual experience based in outlandish sci-fi fantasy, you owe it to yourself to see this. It won’t last in theaters for long, and you’ll regret not seeing it big. (I enjoyed it in 3D myself.)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 at 10:50 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

48 Responses to “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

  1. My brother and I were bouncing off the walls in anticipation for this one and we enjoyed. Leaving (a 2D-showing) we said we didn’t love it like we’d hope but we liked it and really enjoyed it. Time passed and we kept talking about it and now we’re in the ‘we love it’ category. Much like what happened with SPEED RACER which this one shares tons of similarities with: both are visually dazzling and gives us stuff we’ve never seen before, both are extremely earnest in their corniness, both were horribly audience-repellent that will go on to spawn a reprisal and cult-following (already happening with RACER naturally as we all predicted).

    Best quote about it is from our own Mr. S on THE FIFTH ELEMENT thread: “It’s the fourth STAR WARS prequel I never knew I needed.”
    Ya damned right Mr. S!

  2. Saw this yesterday and afterwards I walked up to random people on the streets and asked them: “Do you like good popcorn movies that show you shit that you’ve never seen before?” If they said yes, I’d ask them: “Have you seen VALERIAN?” If they said no, I punched them for being part of the problem.
    (Note: The whole story might be completely made up, except for the “I saw it yesterday” part.)

    Seriously, this was the most fun that I had at the movies since DRAG ME TO HELL! The big market chase is the craziest and most innovative action setpiece since the finale of LONE RANGER and I love that despite its epic look and feel, it’s more or less just a “special agents do their job and uncover a conspiracy” movie. Not that I would have a problem with: “Valerian, we have 10 minutes before the universe explodes!”, but the juxtaposition of AVATAR-esque eyeball fucking epic and small-ish “Let’s just expose what that one asshole did”, was a nice change of pace. (Yeah, I know, the Pearls might think different about the story being “small”.)

    I even approve of the sidequest with Rihanna. Yeah, it has no relevance to the plot and most likely would’ve ended on the cutting room floor until the Special Extended Edition Blu-Ray if one of our biggest pop sensations wouldn’t be in it, but the whole thing was so much fun, that I didn’t mind. Thank god the audience was on the same page. Apart from one gigglepuss, who laughed at EVERYTHING, even if it wasn’t funny, and one guy who actually took a phonecall in the middle of the movie, they were all as excited as I am, laughed in all the right places and didn’t groan once. There even was a small group applauding, which is very rare for Germans in a movie theatre.

    The biggest flaw was really the casting of the heroes. They did a servicable job, but were devoid of charisma and acted too arrogant and cocky, when they were supposed to be likeable. And on a script level, I think there were moments when Besson miscalculated the “strong woman” level of Laureline and turned her into an asshole. For example near the end, when she technically almost gets everybody killed, by refusing to call for backup, because “Fuck you, I want action!”

    But all in all, I wish we would get now a new VALERIAN adventure every 3 or 4 years. This will definitely catch on on home video and I hope it will be enough to safe the series.

  3. Agree with everything you said CJ. One of things I love is how excessive it is. There is a whole bunch of stuff they probably could have taken out or severely shortened and Besson was like ‘No fuck that, I’m gonna show them ALL the cool shit!’

    I guess some/many will disagree but when you look at some of the great fantastical stuff we’ve been getting since the prequels and AVATAR I tend feel it makes all of those movie’s extreme haters who call them worthless and the worst things ever look kinda silly…

  4. I don’t know that I loved this (I mean, it loses track of its macro-story for about three hours), but it has grown in my mind in the half-week since I saw it.

    A couple I know is visiting from out of town, and I ran into them last night on their way to see VALERIAN. They’re usually more into Godard and Fellini stuff than mainstream action films, but said they wanted to see something visually cool if they were going to the theatre for it, and I was like, “Yeah, why not. You might really like it.” If Besson filmed this same movie in french, I bet it would have better reviews.

  5. I think I must be in a bad place emotionally, you guys, because I can’t make myself give a shit about this movie, even though I feel like I probably should give multiple shits. Like, three or four shits, at least. I don’t know what’s up with me this summer. There’s big dumb fun to be had and I can’t seem to drag my ass to the theater to see it. And when I do, I’m largely ambivalent. Ooh, big shiny explosions. Big deal.

    Who is this guy I’ve become? Somebody tell me why it’s worth it to care about this movie beyond the pretty pictures, which I’ve come to take for granted. Is there an amazing “Oh shit it’s on” moment? Does anyone become fight brothers? Are there one-liners that will become part of my lexicon in the years ahead? Give me an in here. Help me learn to dream again. No pressure.

  6. Around the time Laureline stuck her head up the alien jellyfish’s asshole you could almost hear Besson shouting “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?!”

  7. It has a chase scene across multiple dimensions Majestyk. Don’t know if that’s enough for you but it is for me so I’m in there like swimwear either this coming Monday or Tuesday depending on which day is most convenient. Just gonna make sure that theaters out here are even still carrying the thing first though.

  8. Dammit, Majestyk’s grumpiness has reached the point where he demands more from a movie, by asking for cliched stuff that he can find in a million other movies.

    But like I said, this was the most creative and entertaining movie I’ve seen in years and if that isn’t enough, I truly feel sorry for you.

  9. I saw it last night and was kind of grumpy about it, but the further I get the more I remember the stuff I liked, and there was a lot. The lead performances just drove me nuts. I didn’t understand what either of them were going for with their characters. But yeah, that market chase was amazing, and everything involving the Pearls was really cool

  10. This was corny, and bloated, and silly, and good portions didn’t really work at all, and very awesome, and so good.

    It’s the kind of movie that warrants the above sentence for a review. You could sit around and pick apart whats wrong with it, but whats right with it sort of makes you feel like an asshole for doing so.

    And maybe the colors and lights dizzied and confused me, but I actually liked DeHaan. He looked and acted like an anime hero that was suddenly made flesh. Which considering the movie around him, worked really well.

  11. To no one’s surprise, I deeply and unabashedly loved this one. Yes, DeHaan is an astounding, extravagant kind of miscasting the likes of which I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered before, but he’s not bad per se; his line readings are good, it’s just that everything about his physical presence is directly at odds with the way the script presents the character. Delevigne barely seems to be trying at all, and still comes off a little better.

    I’m also pleased that someone of Vern’s stature has the balls to point out that the script isn’t bad at all. It’s exactly what it should be. It’s bright and silly and rip-roaring and primary-colored, perfectly capturing the empty-headed whimsy that certainly defined French sci-fi comic books of the 60’s (and, secretly, pretty much every other comic book right up until everybody got gloomy and empty-headed in the 90’s).

    Anyway, I adore VALERIAN and think a lot of you will too, if you go into it with the right mindset. Yes, even you Mr. M. It’s not just pretty, it’s constantly filled with ridiculous setpieces and imaginative don’t-think-to-hard-about-it strangeness and action bears. It’s FULL of oh shit moments, though of a somewhat more esoteric variety than most movies we would usually describe as “good” or “exciting.” But where’s the harm in that? As CJ points out, we’ve got a lot of movies that offer those kinds of thrills. But unless China really comes through for us in a big way, there’s only ever going to be one VALERIAN.

  12. I liked it, i liked it.

    Echoing what everyone is saying about the casting. Dane can be a very good actor, he can also be awful (his post-transformation green goblin scenes hang over everything I see him him now, cos it’s a staggeringly bad performance of a terrible role) – he’s somewhere in the middle here, just in the wrong role. There’s something to be said for how the film, i guess, tries to make us look at cinema conventions. Cruise gets shit for using camera tricks to make himself look taller, but hey were happy to let Dane be smaller than the guys he is trying to intimate, or go all alpha-male on, and you can’t knock the intention there – but it does look weird and goes against the grain of action movies today.

    Action leads tend to be physically huge atm, maybe that’s a post-Marvel thing (Pratt in Jurassic World was clearly modelled on Indiana Jones, but looked twice his size), so DeHaan being basically my size is totally against the grain. Could see the casting aging well if lead actors get slimmer again, I dunno.

  13. *intimidate

  14. Is it a lot better then John Carter or about as good?

  15. SPOILERS

    I thought DeHaan and Delevingne were okay the first time I saw it, but I quite liked them the second time. I also thought a bit of Keanu and Paul Walker. People like to disparage those guys but I have a hard time picturing anyone else as Neo or Brian O’Conner. I suspect the same will be true over the years for Valerian.

    And I don’t think calling it “miscasting” is correct since I believe Besson said he wanted to make him more of a normal guy, not a standard action hero type. I’m glad he went that route since it makes the film feel a little different. It’s a more interesting choice to me than the Harrison Ford/Chris Pratt/Nathan Fillion type that most people seem to want out of this. Not sure why we need yet another movie with that kind of typecasting. For example, one of my favorite moments was when she accidentally sends him through the wrong door and he’s falling helplessly through space without any means of propulsion and yet he’s the one consoling her! “It’s okay, everyone makes mistakes.” The sincerity of that moment is great. I can easily imagine a Pratt type character treating that moment as a joke or having some sarcastic reaction. I prefer this way.

    Also really like Delevingne. That goofy arm gesture/greeting she gives the soldiers when meeting them before the Big Market mission. The fear, anger and sadness you can see on her face, under a mask of professionalism, when Valerian crashes in the red zone. Her breaking out laughing in frustration when she can’t make herself understood to the alien making her try on dresses. Good stuff.

  16. I think people’s main beef with his look is this is the character that inspired Han Solo he should look more like Han Solo Lite #1,239. He looks like a super sayan merging of DiCaprio and Dylan Baker. Since this is Luc Besson’s dream project though he rightfully did whatever the hell he wanted. I didn’t care for the actor myself cause I’m not really a fan but I’ll wait to see it all in context. If he makes it work in his own way, he makes it work.

  17. Thanks for the input, guys. I’m sure everything you say is true. It’s not really about VALERIAN, though. To be honest I’ve had a real hard time getting excited about anything lately. I’ve never exactly been a ray of fucking sunshine but I could at least stay positive about big dumb summer movies. That’s getting harder and harder to do. So I’m realizing that when I have negative things to say about a movie lately, it says a lot more about me than the movie. I don’t want to piss in anybody’s milkshake so I’ll try and keep that shit to myself as much as possible because I’m not sure I’m really adding to the conversation much anymore.

  18. “super sayan merging of DiCaprio and Dylan Baker” – Haha. I like that. Now I want to see TITANIC meets HAPPINESS with him in the lead.

    I’ve seen that Han Solo complaint, though I just started reading the Valerian comics after seeing the movie and so far he seems more like a standard space/time adventurer, not a particularly Han Solo-y lovable rogue.

    But yeah, if you’re not really a fan of DeHaan I doubt this performance will make you one, though there’s more than enough going on to enjoy it even if you aren’t into the leads. Before they even showed up I already felt like I got my money’s worth.

  19. We’ve had a good year for comic book movies including this and even ATOMIC BLONDE, but this is the only one so far I’ve seen that should be seen on the big screen to relish the details and their larger than life fixings for such a larger than life space opera excess adventure. The rest you could’ve enjoyed at home if you missed out in theaters, but not this one I think.

    That said something like this makes you appreciate the great chemistry work the GOTG movies’ cast have which make the movies they’re in better. I can’t say the same with the VALERIAN leads. Cara doesn’t have the sass pull off her character, though I respect how she saves the guy several times before he saves her. DeHaan gives off Johnny Utah vibes in the marketplace setpiece which I find delightful, but most people consider Keanu Reeves comparisons to be a bad thing. (Also I don’t buy DeHaan as a Lothario as he’s written supposedly to be. Still I laughed when he’s at that alien red light district going by hookers, then comes across that one which makes him pause. Its never explained why, which I find funny that those others didn’t faze him but that one did.)

    Also that 3rd act reminds me of one of my problems with WONDER WOMAN and its wishy washy it takes 2 to go to war/everybody-is-bad messaging. I mean we have the “good guys” here launch a cosmic air strike which defeats the enemy but also destroys a planet and commits near-utter genocide of a race that had no involvement in that war. And the “good guys” cover up that war crime, and Clive Owen giving his excuses going from “we had to do what we had to do” which gives echoes of firebombing enemy cities in the last days of WW2 just to terrorize the local population, not for military tactical gain. Then Owen pulls the racist card. Then he pulls the economy card if this scandal was to go public. I found all this a lot more tangible and unfortunately relatable. (And it helps this message is set-up great by that opening where that alien paradise is then tarnished by the crashing spaceships, black smoke from them polluting the skyline that gives off Miyazaki-esque vibes.)

  20. Also isn’t it interesting that film buffs always whine about these blockbusters lacking the “auteur” touch and yet for better or for worse, TRANSFORMERS 5 was basically Michael Bay going Bay and VALERIAN was maybe the one big budget comic book movie this year which wasn’t committee-made or tested and retested in screenings and focus groups and unless I’m mistaken, Besson got final cut here and I think it shows. But critics shit on TF5 and most don’t care for this.

  21. I didn’t, uh… NOT like it. Just felt like another big budget sci fi spectacle along the lines of JUPITER ASCENDING or ENDERS GAME — which is too bad because I really, really wanted it to be amazing. And there’s several attempts at the sort of cool shit that made FIFTH ELEMENT so good. But they’re all flat. The Bubble thing was just tone deaf. And you can see the way the source materials inspired everything from STAR WARS to AVATAR to FIFTH ELEMENT, which unfortunately makes those things seems derivative even though they’re not. I recall reading how in early drafts of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK there was a carbonite gun or something. Which I recognized immediately when the Pearls began cocooning everyone in sparkly jizz.

    Anyway, it was a shame. Just a lot of empty noise and colors. I’ll probably revisit it in a non-3D setting once it’s on Netflix, just to see if maybe I was just too annoyed by the gimmickry to enjoy the movie properly.

  22. Mr. Majestyk – Yeah, I’ve had a lack of enthusiasm for blockbusters the last few years myself. I had to take a break from watching the borderline ones. This year was surprising in how many I was actually looking forward to. This one, DUNKIRK, APES, F8, etc. I’ve learned it’s generally better to skip the ones I’m not excited about. It does a disservice to the film since I’m almost certain to like the film less than I would in a more optimistic mindset.

    I’ve also felt that sort of general ennui you describe. I wonder if it’s just the aging process. I finally get what a mid-life crisis is. When I was young I just thought it was old people wanting to pretend to be young again. But it’s actually just wanting to experience the excitement things used to inspire when you were young and everything was fresh and new. Sadly I don’t think anything can blow me away anymore quite like THE FIFTH ELEMENT did. But VALERIAN certainly makes the effort.

  23. RRA, is that really the reason why they complain about Blockbuster filmmaking? The lack of “auteurs?”

    The only people I see complaining about that are the people here whenever Marvel movies come up.

  24. Keep your head up, Majestyk. You’re an awesome presence in the outlawvern ecosystem.

  25. I’m sorry, my money’s been tight lately and going to the theater is expensive, however don’t worry, I will absolutely give VALERIAN a shot when it comes out on blu ray.

  26. I loved THE FIFTH ELEMENT’s unlikely mix of summer blockbuster sci-fi spectacle and flamboyant John Waters bad taste. I had high hopes that VALERIAN would equal or surpass the insanity of FIFTH ELEMENT.

    I enjoyed VALERIAN very much but have not decided which Besson space opera I liked more. The advances in CGI since 1997 are both a plus and a minus. On the one hand this new film is much more ambitious, both visually and in the scope of its story. On the other hand CGI tends to make most effects movies look kind of the same as each other somehow. Doing stuff by hand tends to bring out the real auteur quirks – for example I liked how the squid opera singer in FIFTH ELEMENT was blatantly just a weird costume, to the point where you couldn’t actually tell what was supposed to be its flesh and what was supposed to be its clothing.

    Right now I still consider FIFTH ELEMENT more outrageous because of Ruby Rhod – I couldn’t believe a major summer blockbuster had a character like that as a major protagonist, and nothing in VALERIAN seemed to quite push the boundaries as much in terms of what you expect a summer action movie to do. Rhod’s nearest parallel in VALERIAN is maybe Bubbles, who is a much more serious character (and played somewhat flatly by Rihanna). But then I liked FIFTH specifically for the ridiculous wacky humor that Vern objected to. The nearest equivalent is a brief comedy subplot about a tacky tourist couple trying to get through customs.

    Sci-fi is the genre that can go anywhere, do anything, create any type of character or society. Yet it has the most uptight fan base who are always saying “no, you can’t do that, it’s too silly / uncool / unmacho / unfashionable / embarrassing / over the top.” So God bless Luc Besson for transgressing those boundaries and letting his freak flag fly as high as it will possibly go.

    Majestyk, you should see this one. Soon.

  27. Personally I think the closest thing to Ruby Rhod were Bob the Pirate, those tiny alien snitches and the Cowboy pimp. Unfortunately none of them got enough screentime to be this movie’s Ruby Rhod. God bless Ruby Rhod!

  28. Bah. Doesn’t look like this is opening near me for another year.

    I grew up reading these things in French immersion. Sounds like the plot here is basically AMBASSADOR OF THE SHADOWS?

  29. I like both leads. DeHaan is perfect for that teen/emo, Tetsuro-from-Akira type roll. Saying that, Space Hunk is not something I’d attribute to him. Maybe Space Hunk with Dark History, or Space Hunk Who is Switched Into The Body of a Proto-Nerd. But no a straight up Space Hunk.

    Equally, Delevigne, whom I thought was a highlight of the malformed Suicide Squad, isn’t a Space Princess. She’s also got that sort of tortured look about her. Maybe if Valerian was set in a grimdark, bleak future they would work. Not a squeaky clean French future.

  30. Sternshein – it’s a frequent complaint for blockbusters in general that they are all the same, generic, etc.

  31. I really really liked it. It just oozes enthusiasm and willingness to please. I also really responded to its positivity – that opening montage was a marvel! Which I also found made its darker turns and earnestness a little easier to swallow.
    About DeHaan, I actually think he was fine in the role; the problem is that he’s saddled with the absolute worst lines and attitudes in the movie. The whole recurring marriage thing, and his character conflict near the end… I can’t really see anyone walking away from those character moments unscathed. Cara Delevigne was pretty funny as, essentially, a straight woman against the script’s craziness.

    I’d describe it as a PG version of the Fifth Element, with a ton more cohesion, and a lot less Bruce Willis. Overall I think I liked it a whole lot more. Sorry Bruce!

  32. DeHaan Solo.

    (Sorry, guys, had to get that out of my system).

  33. Vern, there was a shop in the Big Market called Korben’s. That’s the only Fifth Element reference I could find. This is far enough ahead that it could be a family business, right?

    Anyone who saw it in 3D, did you notice a lot of ghosting in the space scenes?

  34. I didn’t notice any ghosting the first time I saw it in 3D, but did the second time with scenes of bright objects on dark backgrounds. Different theaters, screen sizes and seat locations, but RealD 3D both times.

  35. The idea that people wanted the title character to be like a young Han Solo seems stupid to me for multiple reasons.

    First, it implies that people can’t take a journey into a new and crazy world without having it “grounded” by a character type that they recognize and find familiar. People who think that way probably think that EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN would be better if they starred Tom Hanks. If people can’t take Valerian and Laureline being “weird” then that is their problem. I say screw ’em. But that’s the long shadow of the original Star Wars I guess – it used to be something new and amazing, and now it’s the formula that people demand every time or they get mad.

    Second, the whole reason fanboys obsess over Han Solo is that he represents being cynical, sarcastic and detached … which, again, is the opposite of being open to new things and being willing to be impressed and having your eyes and mind blown.

    (Maybe some people thought that Bruce Willis’ Korben Dallas in THE FIFTH ELEMENT was a normal down-to-earth macho action hero … except that he wore a backless orange tank top and a blond dye job, drove a talking cab that scolded him for incurring points on his license, had an overbearing Fran Drescher-accented mother, took part in the door-slamming farce of hiding his military colleagues under the bed and in the fridge when the heroine stopped by … and, when asked if he was human, responded with the bizarre comeback “Negative, I am a meat popsicle.” Korben would be the weirdest character in almost any other movie, and the fact that he’s the most normal thing in THE FIFTH ELEMENT says more about that film than it does about him.)

    And finally … we’re GETTING an ACTUAL young Han Solo movie in another year or so! Why does this movie have to be the same thing?

  36. Just got back from this, and I really liked it overall. So much inventiveness and sequences unlike anything I’d ever seen in a movie before.

    I really wish I could agree with Jake, though. I wanted the DeHaan criticism to be overblown so bad, I really wanted to like him. But I couldn’t — nothing against the guy, he’s been good in other movies, but here he is just egregiously miscast. His performance belongs in a comedy sketch where the premise is ‘what if Dane DeHaan played one of these charming swashbuckling action heroes’. He reminded me of Paul Scheer in NTSF:SD:SUV.

    I thought Delevingne was good, though. I thought she sold the character’s dry humour very well. But pairing her up with DeHaan was, again, just not good. They look like brother and sister. They shouldn’t be kissing.

  37. I liked this one pretty good, as a piece of disposable fluff. It was certainly as batshit insane as JUPITER ASCENDING but without its oppressive look, feel, and tone. The first 10-15 minutes is stellar and I hoped it would keep up the brilliance but there were some serious problems in my opinion.

    First, we are introduced to the leads with a “tell, don’t show” type scene where we are informed that Valerian is such a stud and a badass via bad dialog. It is just as bad if not worse than the infamous elevator scene at the beginning of Episode 3. Then, not two minutes after their characters are sloppily introduced, Valerian proposes to the female lead. This is after some baffling and cringe-inducing sexual harassment. This scene is soooo bad after the two intro scenes, it details the entire movie for a good half hour. I had a very hard time feeling any chemistry for either of them, much less between them, because of this awkward intro.

    The narrative thread gets lost and is picked up again a few times but overall it seems a bit more coherent than FIFTH ELEMENT and, at times, a bit more fun, but it also dragged at times. I think this is partially because the leads themselves don’t really know what they are doing, they wander around until they stumble on the secret and then it’s not very surprising.

    Still, it had enough cool parts and a few genuinely funny moments (the girl’s outfit for the king’s feast was awesome) and the visuals and weird aliens were well worth the trip.

  38. Oh did anybody see a similarity between RoboCop 2’s bad guy and the general’s robot forces?

    Also, I was waiting for Valerian to feed himself to the little replicator monster so we could have a battle Royale.

    Also, it would have been cool to see Valerian taking a sexual harassment course after the first 5 minute introduction to the main characters.

  39. I don’t think we can call Valerian’s behaviour towards Laureline “sexual harassment”, since they obviously had something going on for a while. It seems like they were just casual workplace sex buddies who pretended that there where no feelings involved until the marriage proposal, but there was obviously something going on (evidenced in their flirting with body contact when we see them for the first time) and it’s not like he randomly introduced himself to his new, female partner by saying: “Nice tits!”

  40. Valerian is a Major, the girl is a Sergeant. So he is not only her superior but he is a fairly high ranking officer and she is enlisted.

    Perhaps I completely missed the implied sexual relationship. I was not under the impression that they were actually intimate, and the awkward “flirting” on the beach was just him making yet another pass at her and her brushing him off, yet again. Were they really supposed to be screwing each other?? I thought it was really weird that she was on top of him in a bikini as she rejected his advances.

    This scene is a really good example of how not to introduce characters and how to confuse your audience.

  41. Was the relationship unprofessional? Hell yeah! But just the way how they kept flirting from the beginning was for me an obvious sign that this wasn’t a case of some womanizer forcing himself on the hot chick of the week, but more of two lovers (most likey just physical up to that point) being playful with each other. The thing is that you criticize the movie’s “Tell, don’t show” introduction of the characters, but honestly, in terms of their relationship, the unspoken things were pretty clear.

  42. I am going to need a few second opinions on this. It seemed clear to me at the beginning that Valerian and Lauraline were not physical, and their kiss at the end of the movie was meant to be their first. Lauraline seemed intent on rejecting him not because he wasn’t attractive, but because she had no intention of being another notch on his belt. If she had already given it up there would not really be an argument here, she would already be a conquest and would therefore have been just another chick shown on his list of women.

    This scene completely took me out of the movie it was so bad. There were at least 5 points in this scene where I knitted my brows and thought “wtf”.

    1. The second intro cuts to Valerian laying on a beach chair, with zero establishing shots. It was immediately obvious to me that this was an artificial environment. If you want to trick your audience into believing an artificial environment is real, you shouldn’t frame it like it is fake.

    2. Valerian is making sexual advances on Laureline and she is clearly uninterested. But then he wrestles with her and she does not object harshly. Are they a couple?? No, they clearly aren’t, since she is still rejecting him. Why doesn’t she slap him?? Or get angry? Then she wrestles with him and gets on top, straddling him, but still rejecting his advances?? Wtf. This is not a good way to discourage a man. Does she want this kind of attention from him? I am confused.

    3. They walk out of the holodeck and… Wtf am I supposed to have believed they were on a real beach?? The mis en scene clearly portrayed this as a fake environment from the start, but this scene seems to believe it is some kind of reveal. Holodecks became commonplace in sci fi 30 years ago.

    4. Laureline talks about all of Valerian’s many sexual conquests, and she has no plans on being one of them. Wtf… DeHaan is maybe unconventionally good looking, in a creepy kind of way. But he is no hunk. This is seriously bad casting for this kind of Lothario stereotype. I am all for breaking stereotypes but you have to set them up somehow. At least show us Valerian with some other girl first. Even the Star Trek remake did this better. But Laureline is I assume somewhat attracted to him because she did not outright reject his advances. So this is going to be one of those movies where the Playboy proves he is worthy of True Love. Okay but the beach scene was a little creepy then…

    5. Apparently we do get some proof of what a stud Valerian is… A strange and unnecessary CGI black book that appears on the wall of a hallway at a command from… Laureline??? Don’t they have passwords in the future??? Wtf.

    6. The shots of Valerian’s spaceship made it hard to tell by this point how big it is. It doesn’t look Star Destroyer sized, certainly, or even Enterprise, but it does look bigger than the Millennium Falcon. But apparently our two heroes are the only people aboard. Wtf? Don’t they have any support crew? They work for the government!

    7. These two lead actors don’t look nearly old enough or experienced enough. If we are to accept Valerian as a highly trained, decorated, and experienced officer, he should be played by a man who at least looks the part. DeHaan is 31 but could easily pass for 25. Neither age is appropriate for this part. If we are supposed to accept Laureline as a capable newbie who saves his ass repeatedly, she should be at least ten years younger than him. Yes, another stereotype (older man, younger woman) but if the roles were reversed you would expect a 40 year old woman and a 25-30 year old man. Poor casting, again.

    8. He proposes. Wtf?? This appears to be a left field “I will prove myself worthy” proposal, which would be appropriate and fitting IF the characters had been established properly. Instead we have only seen them on screen for 2 minutes so we don’t even know them or their relationship. We have only seen some vaguely creepy behavior from our hero and been told (not shown) that he is a Playboy, and the age and casting of our main actor are all wrong. Besson is trying to use stereotypes here to jumpstart his story but it is horribly done. Maybe this is all lost in translation from the original French.

    After all of these Wtf moments I was totally not ready to accept the two heroes running a mission in the Market. I was completely taken out of the movie.

    Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie, but this was terrible writing in a critical point of the movie. You can’t screw up the beginning and the character introductions like this. Especially after the terrific first intro and the deliberately weird second.
    They should have brought in another screenwriter to polish this transition, or tweak the Valerian character to better fit DeHaan’s age and screen presence, or something.

  43. To me it was a mix of weird and bland. I liked how odd and colorful the movie looked, but it’s basically SCI FI CONCEPT ART: THE MOVIE will two boring leads and a lot of cuts to some general with a dry patch under his nose. The lack of chemistry between Valerian and Laureline is what really hurts the movie. At this point, I’m not sure if I blame the casting or the writing. Right now I’m leaning towards the writing because 1.) I think the most charismatic actors would have struggled with the dialogue in this movie and 2.) How do you develop an interesting dynamic between two characters when they’re constantly separated?

  44. The latest Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen co-written film, Enter the Warrior’s Gate, is also on Netflix? Anybody seen it? it’s another one of those white kid gets transported to China and has to learn Kung Fu to save the Chinese people film like that one with Jackie Chan. It does have Dave Bautista and the fight choreographer of Man of Tai Chi but it mostly looks pretty bad.

  45. I just saw the synopsis. Apparently, his video game skills allow him to become a kung fu master. I’m assuming his masturbating skills also make him the world’s greatest lover.

  46. Feast your eyes.

    The Art Of Valerian

    Like Ghost in the Shell, I’m willing to take temporary breaks on Fine Art to celebrate the work that went into good-looking movies, instead of just good-looking games. And so here we are, with the art of Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

  47. i found this somewhat upsetting. there was nothing cute or endearing about seeing the blandest fuck in the universe badger his space secretary into marrying him. because there was no establishment that he gave a shit about rules to begin with, his sudden respect for them when it came to returning the converter seemed like a totally contrived and petty power move/ploy to get her to marry him – and the worst part is it works! she has to fucking TALK HIM INTO DOING THE RIGHT THING and when he does, its a) begrudgingly and b) because hes being rewarded with marriage. this is the “nice guy” mentality of relationships as transactional, and the fact that it makes sense in the context of their “relationship” in the film (which appears to consist entirely of her tolerating his inappropriate workplace behaviour) doesn’t make it any less toxic.

    apart from that, another aspect that really bothered me was the disrespect for life, and especially non-human, non-white life – like the race of imbecile comic relief “savages.” infiltrating their society (to no end at all, the result was slaughter anyway!) also costs the life of another totally expendable non-human! and yet this is in the same movie where the (also genocidal, hmmm) villain is spared death. i guess hes a white human man so he gets to face justice in a trial, thanks to rule abiding valarian, the guy who just murdered hundreds of aliens!

    its okay though, a bunch of races/aliens shook hands at the beginning, thus assuring us the film is definitely not racist.

  48. Saw it a second time last night but this time in 3D. I’m just posting mainly to say that yes it is still awesome and no I did not notice any ghosting with the 3D.

    Also I had already agreed with Mr. S on his feelings for the movie but I felt he was a bit too kind in his love for the leads. On this watch though, I totally get it. All the bizarre performances and ticks that I felt dragged the movie down in my first viewing now adds to the movie’s weird charm. I guess since I’m suspecting it, I now find it far more funny how the role was written as a lovable asshole that we can’t help but love but he’s played as if he’s supposed to be the ultimate unlikable jock deuch.

    What I’m saying is: I love this movie and unlike many, I will be re-watching this one quite a bit in the future.

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