Sunday, July 23, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

Guys, guys, this film is fucking fantastic. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is completely over the top, but I came out of the IMAX completely and utterly blown out of hyperspace. That's the short review. I will also admit that I have not seen many of Luc Besson's films but those that I have seen (Léon: the Professional, The Fifth Element) number among the ranks of those visual creations that are memorable for being *good* cinema. At least in my mind.

Valerian is best described as Star Wars after dropping a few caps of LSD, and since I enjoyed The Fifth Element, I was right at home with Valerian. This isn't a film that takes itself too seriously; if it did, I don't think it would have worked too well. The visuals are straight out of pulp SF with a slightly poppy edge, and as my husband creature mentioned, the main antagonists look like they come from a world where old ladies' bath pearls are produced.

The themes are a little on the nose with the authoritarian military commander up to (obvious) nefarious plans – I won't spoil – and the seemingly "primitive" civilisation that's been done wrong. Toss in the Han/Leia dynamic between our charming Valerian and devastatingly efficient Laureline, and you have a recipe for one helluva ride. The primary location, the oversized space station Alpha, is a fascinating place, and the beings that inhabit it are diverse and begging for further discovery – some *stunning* world building.

Granted, there's a bit more emphasis on style over substance, and this film simply oozes visual impact, but the pace is cracking, and you don't have a chance to overanalyse any plot holes. It's also abundantly clear that the comic book series from the 1960s, upon which this film was based, was also hugely influential on the Star Wars franchise. Um, hello, I can now see where the Millennium Falcon has its roots.

The only character that I felt was a bit of a loose end in the film was Bubble (Rihanna) – she was kinda tacked on for eye candy and given a small part that didn't exactly go anywhere and The Thing that Happened felt a bit like a kind of GRRM move due to no one actually knowing what to do with the character (for those who'll get what I mean) but her performance piece was lovely, if a bit superfluous. Kinda like shoving a music video right in the middle of an action movie. But then again, it kinda suited the general mood of the film and I really didn't mind that much. And, of course, eye candy. This film is full of eye candy.

Dane DeHaan (Valerian) looks like a baby Leonardo DiCaprio [oh gods, I've always thought of Leo being a baby but he's all hairy and grown up these days ... and oh fuck I feel old for saying this]... But though I do feel that Dane was a bit young for the role (I'd imagine Valerian to be a bit more older and, as the husband creature suggested, rugged), he still pulled off the part with a certain roguish charm that made me forgive him for being such a youngling.

Cara Delevingne is young ... as in I wouldn't have expected her to fit the role either; she carries herself as a woman who's much more world weary than what she looks. That being said, she's dynamite, and put so much emotional tone in the role, that her character seems entirely plausible. I keep thinking she looks like a young Michelle Pfeiffer, and I'll be keeping an eye on her career.

The overall styling is just the bomb; this is definitely the kind of film that begs to be watched again, just for the sheer detail the creatives put into it. Also, the opening sequence coming in the strains of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" nearly had me all teary-eyed – and I just knew, with absolute certainty, that this was going to be a piece of cinema that's going to sit right up there in my heart, along with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and all the others that deserve space on my shelf at home.

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