Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Visual Feast : Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

***Mild Spoilers Below***

So I have been waiting for the next big space opera to hit the big screen and save me from the disappointment that was Jupiter Ascending. Seriously if I hear one more person say "I love dogs" I might vomit and reconsider my love for the genre altogether but I digress.

So when I saw the buzz surrounding the new sci-fi Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets I admit I took the bait, hook, line and sinker. Now if you were hoping for a full comparison of the movie to the comics go somewhere else. This will be an opinion purely based on the film as is.

Now the film is visual stunning and the CGI is breathtaking, a given judging by all the movie trailers, tv spots and bus advertisements that have been haunting my days these past few weeks. Some shots like the exploration of the alternate dimension marketplace and Alpha city fly through seemed made just for 3D viewing, that little extra to make you feel inspired but you can still appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of the film just as well in 2D.

The world building involved in this film is amazing, coming pretty close to Star Wars for all the different species of aliens you see throughout the film. Seriously, who doesn't want to be a pastel silk wearing alien with skin full of electro glitter, wash your face with pearls every morning and live in a utopia by the sea? I actually squealed a little in the cinema because I thought I saw the Mondoshawans at the beginning of the film when Alpha was beginning to form and grow but not 100% sure... They looked pretty similar! With Luc Besson who knows?

(Above - A Mondoshawan from The Fith Element)

In the whole film you only see perhaps 2-3 locations, one of which being Alpha the City of a Thousand Planets a whole universe in and of itself. The cityscapes remind you of a little of Fifth Element mixed with Blade Runner and, dare I say it, Ghost in the Shell. The complex world of different habitats that co-exist on Alpha creates a breeding ground for some interesting, scary and sometimes crazy yet funny characters which often make an appearance in the film just to add a little more spice to the movie.

Costuming was ok, not breathtaking. I guess I have to give more props to Jupiter Ascending or John Carter of Mars for daring to be different as this film's style was a tad mediocre and dare I say it, boring. Sure, they do wear combat suits or military gear for a majority of the film but the rest of the time it just looks like Valerian and Laureline wore a mish-mash off the rack ensembles which just end up destroyed, lost or replaced with same-same. No outfit that would would make you stand up and say, take my money or take quick mental notes to sketch out a cosplay later, unless you want to cosplay an alien hooker... You read it right and you'll see what I mean. As there was nothing particularly stand out or remarkable about anything that they wore which may have added to the visual feast I'll move on.

(Above - An example of off the rack ensembles)

Now I guess another let down of the film was the lack of backstory when it comes to the main characters. Sure, there is always the little inside jokes that no one else really understands but seriously, the dynamic between these two is a little hard to fathom at first. If you read up on the comics you would probably have had a better understanding of the relationship between Valerian and Laureline than I do but since I didn't I had to work with what I was given.

Valerian comes across as a player who aspires to be as cool as James Bond when he grows up but hasn't quite gotten there yet. It's hard to take Dane DeHaan seriously as a smooth and somewhat cocky male lead as he looks about twelve and that haircut does not help. Sure he has a little virtual black book full of females that could rival a secret agent plus the melee, hand to hand combat and shooting skills that comes with being a sci-fi hero but it was hard to believe the sincerity of his awkward sometimes painful to watch tween wooing of Laureline throughout the film. Can't blame Cara Delevingne's character for not taking all these declarations of love seriously. Also Dane DeHaan looks like he could use a decade of sleep, someone get this guy a hot chocolate, soft pillow and fluffy blanket stat, as he looked damn tired throughout 90% of this film.

Laureline came across as a beautiful, tough as nails, ice queen with a hidden heart of gold... shocker there. So the originality was lacking in the character development department when it came to Laureline but it was somewhat amusing to see her continuous brush offs of Valerian's undying affections. Her attitude towards Valerian is often of a babysitter fond of her young unruly charge than a blossoming romance between two adults. Kind to little alien critters, her combat skills rival Valerian's and her cool-headed solutions in stressful situations are also impressive. Given her skills and quick thinking smarts I found it hard to swallow some plot points in the film that left her in somewhat less desirable damsel-in-distress situations but alas tough heroines must fall prey to such film tropes in order for the plot to progress to it's predictable end.

Although Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets is a visual feast and CGI masterpiece like the space operas before it unfortunately the story was also predictable and the characters personal development somewhat stunted and hard to invest in. A pretty gem to go and view but with somewhat less than desirable flaws that left it with less than stellar grades. I wanted to love Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets but just ended up liking it.

For the big budget effects this film deserves to be experienced on the big screen just to appreciate the all the hard work that went into it and perhaps I'll watch it again just for the visual effects but I'll wait for the Blu-ray release.