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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
 
Year : 2017
Country : France


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DokBrowne  [ 8.0 ]    [ add to preferred ]    [ email this review to a friend ]

Like a slightly alternate universe version of "Star Wars", a panoramic sci-fi/fantasy adventure that rockets through a vividly rendered galaxy of strange creatures and futuristic customs whilst following some young heroes on a quest to prevent nefarious government foes from spreading hatred and destruction across the cosmos. Main differences: no family drama, no talk of destined champions (they're just virtuous cops), this one's more light-hearted overall, and it reaches for crowd-pleasing charisma but its protagonists (and villains) fall rather short of the timeless archetypes we got from George Lucas. Not to say Dana DeHaan and Cara Delevigne are unpleasant or even miscast - arguably, most of the blame belongs to a clunky script full of awful banter, and they do their best at pinging between suave and stalwart, but they're not appealing enough to own said bad dialogue, so oftentimes it ends up owning them.

Clearly, it's not hard to find fault in this movie, and it's surely destined to be considered a critical and financial strike-out as its cult stature grows. I'm reminded of Roger Ebert's review of "Network", wherein he acknowledges the unkempt excess of Paddy Chayefsky's script as the reason why the movie isn't as perfect as it had the potential to be, yet can't help reward it 4 stars because of everything it gets right. He said it's bound to be remembered far longer than most other movies that aren't nearly so ambitious, and aside from my nerd-gasm joy at watching a whole new world of sci-fi wonders unfurl with exquisite visual effects and skilled showmanship, that is my takeaway with "Valerian". The central romance is pretty dull, the main characters aren't the best, there are numerous pacing lags, and probably too many unintended yet unavoidable reminders of both "Star Wars" and Luc Besson's spiritual predecessor "The Fifth Element" (which drew from the same French comics for inspiration, but still, it got there first), so I wouldn't call this a great film, a masterpiece, an iconic space opera for the next generation, but it deserves much more of an enthusiastic cheer than the shrug and damning with faint praise that will characterize its legacy this weekend.

Not to keep tilting back to "Star Wars", but "Valerian" is one of the only movies ever to give it a legit run for its money as a massively scaled, thoroughly detailed, spare-no-expense simulation of life in a pulpy intergalactic realm of spaceships, aliens, and exotic technologies. It does so with a twinkle in its eye, making it all the more accessible and fun, and introduces more loopy possibilities than it knows what to do with, the most impressive of which to me was the three-layered virtual reality system where DeHaan, moving through multiple dimensions simultaneously yet perceived differently by the world around him in each one, has to navigate a tricky infiltration. There's a sumptuous mix during the whole movie of some advanced plays on physics that movies wouldn't have been able to achieve in earlier times with limited technology, with vintage space and future fiction tropes. Glimpses of distant planetary landscapes, spacecraft luxuries, and complex infrastructures are included just as casually and confidently as wacky and amusing alien life forms that look like they could've been designed in the '80s and a very brief yet not-easily-forgotten bit with Ethan Hawke as a pimp to a shapeshifting Rihanna all of which itself looks like it could've been conceived in the '90s.

Such a jumble of influences and evocations, but Besson's sense of control makes it feel cohesive. He's neither too pretentious nor too crass with the material, as many other directors might have been. He entertains and bedazzles and keeps a sense of humor about it, pretty much exactly what the comics were going for. Whether or not the movie succeeds worldwide, unlocking the option for sequels that I would love to see, at least Besson got and ran with one chance at his own epic Lucas/Cameron-level opus (technically two, if you count "The Fifth Element", and it's terrific so you should). Mark my words, anyone who's gonna see this movie in theaters and say that it sucks, it will outlive that tarnishing. It's messy, bold and visionary, and history tends to favor those qualities.

File next to: "Jupiter Ascending"

 
Weighted Rating : 6.9
No. Ratings : 1
No. Reviews : 1


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