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VALERIAN and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) (Read 657 times)
Jul 26th, 2017 at 2:06pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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Putting my cards down up front: I have never understood why THE FIFTH ELEMENT is such a beloved cult film (and yes, I have re-watched it fairly recently). Now, I did enjoy Luc Besson's earlier less extravagent works like SUBWAY and LA FEMME NIKITA, but VALERIAN, like his more recent sci-fi action epic LUCY, is all style over substance. You can watch the pretty pictures, but, you cringe once the characters open their mouths. Indeed, the best sequence in VALERIAN is the opening ten minutes or so on the planet Mur with it's breathless imaginative vistas and shiny blue-green creatures. Not coincidentally, it's also largely dialogue free.

After that relatively painless beginning (and a clever credits sequence underscored by David Bowie's "Space Oddity"), we are, unfortunately, introduced to our pair of surly brats...er...."heroes" - Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne). THE FIFTH ELEMENT's Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) is the most irritaing sci-fi character in cinema history besides, possibly, Jar Jar Binks. But, at least they were secondary supporting characters. Not so with this pair - who are our protagonists. They are supposed to come off as confident, assured and cool. Instead, they are smug, conceited and adopt a "Yeah, whatever - let's save the universe so we can go off and have fun on a beach" attitude. It is not an exaggeration to say that this duo sinks the picture. There IS a reason why the optimistic derring do of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia have resonated for decades (or, a Wonder Woman from this year) - if our leads couldn't give a damn, why should we?? Even the presence of real pros like Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke and Rutger Hauer (the latter two, largely cameos) can counter them. Rihanna does fine in her couple of scenes and demonstrates some presence.

Besson disciples often say 'check your brain at the box office and enjoy', but, that defense only goes so far. The technology on display is impressive at times (although there is too much of a same-ness between the look of the Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality sequences and those that are supposed to be 'real'). The photography, stunts, SFX and music are top notch (and it's nice to know that even in the 28th Century they will still be groovin' to the Bee Gees and quoting A FEW GOOD MEN). The plot itself isn't the problem even if it's another combination of cliches - Lost Civilization plus searches for a magical object and a one-of-a-kind gizmo, but when it's written, performed and directed in the most desultory manner possible it's ripe for disaster. VALERIAN may be the perfect movie to have playing on a screen in the background with the sound turned off.

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Reply #1 - Jul 27th, 2017 at 5:00am

Rich Bartlett   Offline
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I agree with everything said here and wish to raise one very very minor quibble. The Destiny Module, the first permanent research station that was one of the first pieces of the International Space Station which ultimately became the City of a Thousand Planets, is not actually shown in the movie. Instead we see the Apollo service and command modules misidentified as Destiny. I assume this Apollo replica was created sometime in their past to honor the Apollo-Soyuz mission that began the tradition of international, and later interplanetary, unity and cooperation. As I said, a minor quibble. I shouldn't expect accuracy in a Luc Besson movie.
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