In a city of a thousand planets, surely there has to be something better to watch.
I like Luc Besson. Problably more than I should, considering he’s kind of a creep. Luc Besson is the Woody Allen of France. I also really like weird French and Spanish sci-fi and fantasy. Those can also be kind of creepy by our American standards.
When I was growing up my friends were looking at boobs and butts in copies of Penthouse and Hustler left in the woods, while I was looking at cartoon boobs and butts in Heavy Metal Magazine. I didn’t feel as pervy because my boobs and butts at least had an interesting narrative.
So I am THE target audience for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. What went wrong?
Here’s my summation. Maybe I’ll save you $15. Hopefully this will be more entertaining than the movie….which didn’t set the bar too high.
We open on the beach planet Mul…not to be confused with the Star Wars beach planet of Scarif. This one has a bunch of pale Avatar people collecting pearls which they feed to a little dinosaur guy who then shits out even more pearls. If it were Flintstones, the little poop monster would have broken the fourth wall and said, “It’s a living!”
There’s a big ol’ war happening in space and a giant spaceship thingy, that looks kind of like the giant spaceship thingy from Alien: Covenant crashes into the planet and blows it up. But not before the pale Avatar princess projects her consciousness (kind of) into the most worthy person she can find in all of space and time…Dane DeHaan.
Here’s my first issue. She plops inside his subconscious 30 years in the future because apparently there was no one else more worthy. Dane DeHaan aka Valerian aka Green Goblin is a dick. Even by the end of this, he’s still a dick! And worst of all, he’s a BORING dick. I think he was trying for an understated Bruce Willis Corbin Dallas space cabby thing, but he has all the machismo of the kids in Flight of the Navigator. Just like the Fonz can’t say that he’s wrong. Valerie can’t say thank you.
I’m going to jump ahead to the end for a second. Valerian has to give back two things to the pasty Avatar people. He’s totally returning the one thing that he stole, but the other thing…eh…he kind of wants to keep because his job as a space cop was to get it. Never mind the fact that the rightful owners of the second thing, which is the little Flintstone poop dinosaur by the way, are standing there going, “hey dude, can we have our little poop dinosaur back?” His partner Suicide Squad aka Cara Desomethingfrench has to tell him, “C’mon man, if you give it back I’ll kiss you and stuff.” So the only reason he returns it is so he can hook up with her! He starts off a wienie and he ends a wienie.
That’s kind of the A story. Pasty Avatar people want these things and they think Clive Owen has it, so they kidnap him. He doesn’t have it, so they just kind of stand around him for awhile while he takes a nap. He wakes up in time at the end to confirm the painfully obvious fact that he’s the bad guy. Also…he’s the bad guy because he’s the commander at the beginning who blew up the Alien: Covenant bad guy’s space ship because that’s what you do in war. He should have just said, “Hey, I beat the bad guys and am really bummed in doing so that there were civilian casualties.”
I’m not really sure what the message of the movie was supposed to be. for a little while I thought there was going to be a theme about the dangers of artificial reality. We meet Green Goblin and Suicide Squad on a holodeck beach and she’s all like, “I’d rather be on a real beach.” And he’s like, “Yeah, me too!” Then there’s a whole sequence where a bunch of tourists (fat Americans) go a virtual reality mall and the movie makes some jokes about consumerism while showing a bunch of gaudy people stumbling around the desert while wearing silly VR glasses. But at the end, the Pale Avatar people float away in a hot air balloon holodeck re-creation of their destroyed world from the beginning. So I guess this isn’t a commentary on virtual reality at all.
People have assumed that Rihanna’s part is just a small cameo. It’s not. She’s been tasked with carrying possibly the only emotional weight of the film. It wasn’t a lot of heavy lighting. She’s a dancer/actress, who apparently is a slave, who apparently has a heart of gold if you tell her she’s a good dancer/actress. She helps Green Goblin rescue Suicide Squad from some bad guys. Then there’s a big fight scene where Rihanna and Suicide Squad literally stand around and watch Green Goblin single-handedly beat up all the bad guys. Then in the next scene, she apparently got fatally injured and dies right after telling Green Goblin to not be such a butthole all the time to Suicide Squad because sometimes girls like boys who aren’t buttholes all the time.
Like I said earlier, it doesn’t really stop him from being a butthole all the time.
There are a couple interesting side characters. Ethan Hawke as every Sunset Strip hair metal musician ever is kind of neat I guess. There’s a pirate guy who kind of out Johnny Depps Johnny Depp. The tour guide at the virtual reality mall was kind of Russell Brand neat. Herbie Hancock basically plays Keith David. It was kind of neat seeing him do something other than make infectiously catchy music.
Luc Besson likes to champion women. Yeah, he arguably fetishsizes them in the process and in some cases his definition of “woman” skews pretty young. Laureline (Cara Delevingne) doesn’t really get a lot to do here. She largely shoots down Valerian’s advances and watches as he does cool stuff. Her excuse for not hooking up with him in the beginning is basically because he has too many exes on his Space Facebook. In the end, she caves in because he promises to deleted them.
Here’s the biggest problem with that. In the Valerian comics, the two characters start off as equals. In later comics he’s a buffoon and she’s the competent hero. In the movie, she’s really just reduced to eye candy. You just kind of expect more from the guy who wrote Angel-A, Columbiana, Lucy, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec and La Femme Nikita.
Valerian wasn’t even fun to look at for me. It just felt like two hours of animated vomit all over the screen. Just because you can put everything you can imagine into a movie doesn’t mean you should put everything you can imagine into a movie.