Wednesday’s Weekly Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

There’s not many things in life that cause me trepidation. I know work is gonna be dull, so I just pull on my big boy pants and get on with it. I’m told that first dates are supposed to be nerve-racking, but I’m pretty entertaining when we first meet, it takes weeks to reveal my inner dullard. And I once went sky-diving, which was all compartmentalised into “well, I’m in this plane, strapped to a parachute man, it would be rude to not step out and hurtle towards the ground accelerating at 130 feet per second per second”.

But there’s something about smoking outside the cinema before a film that I’ve been anticipating that really loosens my bumhole and enflames my BPD.
“What if it’s terrible? You’ve been burned like this before! Remember Skyfall?!”
“What if it’s excellent, but you’ll only get to see it the first time once! What if you’re too hungover to enjoy it properly now?!”
“What the hell are you gonna watch when you get home?”
It’s a really trying time. Sunday was the fourth time this year I’ve been riddled with that anxiety. I wasn’t even planning on going to the cinema because of the aforementioned hangover. But Halle Berry had just ruined my morning with a movie called Kidnap (2017)* and I needed a pallet cleanser. I could have gone with Dunkirk (2017) which looks pleasantly predictable, but after the gushing review of The Fifth Element (1997) I did last month it seemed fitting that I see if Luc Besson has still got “it”.


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) on IMDb

Honestly. It’s hard to say.

I really really liked the film. But I can’t tell you if it’s any good. Which is a bit shit for someone reviewing the film.

Once again he does a perfect job of explaining the world in which the movie exists.
We went to the moon in the 60’s. Every subsequent decade different nations would move in together in space. Eventually aliens rocked up, and we let them move in too, building an extension every time. Then after 500 years they decide to all go travelling away from Earth like a giant hippy convoy. That’s all you need to know and he does it in a slow touching montage lasting no more than 10 minutes.
We then have a 10 minute scene showing the catalyst for the story, a peaceful civilization living their awesome lives then being destroyed. And it’s heart-breaking, because in that time you understand exactly what they’re all about and why you’d rather they just be left alone.


He does less of a good job establishing why we should care about the main characters. I would find out afterwards that this film is based on a series of French comics. Which makes sense, because Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is introduced as the cocky lady’s man, but for no discernible reason. He’s a creepy looking guy who was not out-of-place in this years A Cure For Wellness (2016), which was a pretty twisted, and very good, movie. And he talks like Pollox Troy from Face/Off (1997). Just everything about him is a little odd, and hard to understand why he would be considered sexy. So basically he’s as French as you can get without actually being French (He’s of Dutch, German, Italian, English, Welsh, Northen Irish decent).

His co-lead Laureline (Cara Delevingne) should have had her name in the title, because she’s as integral to the story as he is. They share the role of hero. And it was grating to see him trying to get with her constantly. He came across as what I understand is now commonly referred to as a “Fuck boy”. And she is the strong independent woman who repeatedly explains to him why she isn’t interested. She should only have to say it once. No means no. Raise a fucking grievance with HR, because that is a sustained pattern of sexual harassment in the work place.
But, you know, French.

Doghan-Dagui: We know how humans work.

Doghan-Dagui: They are all so predictable

Sergeant Laureline: Clearly, you have never met a woman.

The storyline itself makes sense and flows quite nicely. There’s just so fucking much of it. I liken it to Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). You have several set pieces which all fit together, and lead in to each other, but somewhere in the middle, and I can’t tell you exactly which bit it is, you have about 20 minutes that doesn’t need to be there.
So, you’re here to get the thing, and you need to take it there to show the guy, and then he’s got something going on, so you go over there for this other thing, and then you need to go there for something else so you can go there to get her from the guy…
“Does anyone else feel like we’ve got to many things in the places we’re going? Get Ridley Scott on the phone, we need to 86 a whole section of the plot”

Visually… It’s fucking stunning. I want to use some gash phrase like “a feast for the eyes”, but that’s a dumb thing to say. So ignore that, but take in the sentiment. Most sci-fi or fantasy films nowadays that rely heavily on special effects show you pretty much everything in the trailer. Or there’s a few amazing scenes of colourful floating things that could never occur in real life (as we know it) and then the storyline goes back to being in a dingy bar or meeting room because it’s cheaper to film some people in a room having a chat than it is to make everything look wonderful. And I mean that in the true sense of the word. It invokes a sense of wonder.
Here though, Besson is relentless with it. Everything is amazing to look at. It’s not surprising that this is the most expensive film to be made. Ever. Well, in France.


There’s nothing too surprising about the film. It’s not trying to be something that it’s not. The bad guy is obviously the bad guy. And despite my objections the hero gets the girl. Or the hero gets the guy. And as an homage to himself Besson puts in a fun little side story where an amazing performer tells the male lead to just show some love, which is going to save the day.

Defence Minister: The mission is a simple in and out. Agent Valerian, you’ll be running solo.

Major Valerian: I only work with my partner.

Sergeant Laureline: Hi.

Major Valerian: We’re a team.

I’m not going to be rushing back to the cinema for a repeat viewing there. I don’t think I am the intended audience for this film, although it’s hard to say who is. There’s some quite adult themes going on, and I’d imagine it’s a bit too long for a lot of younger kids. But maybe like how I was 15 when The Fifth Element came out and I hold it in such high regard, this is in that sweet spot for teenagers who will be banging on about it 20 years later.
It’s got everything you want from a fun sci-fi film.
My prediction is that you’ll be seeing it in the TV listings every Boxing Day for the next ten years. And we’ll all be sitting down as a family to enjoy it. Because what it lacks in “uniqueness of story”, it makes up for in “being better than talking to your family”.

*You know how in some movies they show people on a Roller-Coaster and it’s supposed to make you feel like you’re experiencing what it’s like to be on a Roller-Coaster, but it doesn’t because the whole point of a Roller-Coaster is the g-force and fear that you might fall out? Well now imagine that instead of watching the PoV from someone in a Roller-Coaster, or even that shot of someone’s face while they’re riding a Roller-Coaster, you’re watching someone drive a car that occasionally goes up to 60mph. That’s what Kidnap was like. I’m not even kidding, there were several shots of the speedometer/odometer where the needle was hitting the 60mph mark, but no further. That film was like an exercise in motorway blindness. She had no less than three occasions where she could have run the bad guys over with a car. SHE HAD A CAR AS A WEAPON AGAINST A MAN WITH A KNIFE!
Fuck that movie.


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