All original written content is (c) 2017 Mike Pascale. Visual content is (c) its respective owners. Bru-Hed art is ©2012 and a trademark of All Ages Media and Mike Pascale.
NEWBIES: If this is your first trip here (welcome!), here’s the QT on what these reviews are.
THIS WEEK: A futuristic science fiction spectacular based on the “acclaimed graphic novel” (in Europe anyway) comes to cinematic life with Dane (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN‘s Harry Osbourne) DeHaan and Cara (SUICIDE SQUAD‘s Enchantress) Delevingne are security officers Major Valerian and Sgt. Laureline of the Human Federation (part of the World State Federation). After Val dreams of a dying planet and later recovers a secret “last of its kind” stolen item, both are called in to protect a commander during a meeting at humongous space station Alpha, the “City Of A Thousand Planets.” Then things go haywire and lots more is revealed.
Written and directed by Luc (LUCY, TRANSPORTER, FIFTH ELEMENT) Besson, based on the French graphic novel series by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières.
- Many (all?) of the creatures are by Weta Digital (PLANET OF THE APES) so that part is done as well as you’d expect. Although the pencil-thin aliens of “Mül” give off a definite AVATAR-inspired vibe, all the aliens are very cool and fascinating to look at. The ones shown during the opening history of the space station are especially well done. (Only wish there were more.)
- Stunning visuals and cinematography. You feel like you’re as far in the future as you are in space. (Nice bit of history tying in the 1970s International Space Station with Alpha more than 500 years later.) Hardware, guns, and tech are all very cool, even though some of the costumes/helmets may look goofy to some.
- Some comedy is thrown (or forced, depending on your opinion) in to keep things light. There’s a bit with Laureline and an alien captor that’s not bad, especially when as it finally plays out.
- Hottie alert! Rihanna guests as a shape-changing burlesque dancer and looks great (although a stunt double did the incredible acrobatic stuff I’m sure—the pole-dancing reaches new heights of skill). Though a bit too skinny fer yer pal Bru’s tastes, Cara Delevingne used to be a Victoria Secrets model and there’s a great CU of her steamin’ bikini buns when she first enters the scene. And her “upstairs/downstairs” hair/eyebrows mismatch along with her giant peepers is a great look that will mesmerize males. (As I like to say, “Color-wise, what’s above the eyes is between the thighs.” So now ya know!)
- Plenty of action, both hand-to-hand combat stuff as well as ray-gun and space battles, ship and on-foot chases, explosions, and the usual space-opera boom-boom we fans want.
- A tiny alien dragon that poops jewels or whatever you feed it? I’ll take one. Much easier to clean up after.
- Some very clever and imaginative futuristic takes on tech, entertainment and virtual reality vacations that could probably one day be real.
- Clive Owen as the commander, Ethan Hawke as Jolly the Pimp and Herbie Hancock as minister of defense are interesting choices that could be fun for fans. The opening song is David Bowie’s “Major Tom.”
- As with a few other flicks this year, this one’s over two hours and feels it. Like the herbal root used to cure insomnia that the film is named after (although I’m guessing the creator thought it was more derivative of “valiant”), this may make you drowsy if you’re not a big sci-fi fan.
- Definitely confusing in spots. There’s a whole big scene at a virtual market where Valerian is wearing VR glasses while running through a desert that really didn’t have much drama for me as I didn’t get what the “rules” were. If he got clawed by a monster or shot at in VR, it could kill him, but the minute he takes off his glasses he’s okay? So why not just remove the glasses when there’s danger? And, how could he could grab an object in the VR world and run with it in the desert at the same time? It was probably more explained in the comics but had to be cut out here. And it wasn’t the only scene like that.
- Who decided “Mül” (pronounced “mule”) would be a good name for a planet or aliens? (“We must protect the Mule!” No, you should ride it.)
- The plot felt padded. There’s a major mystery to solve, but there are several detours for either thrills or humor that just seemed like they were put in to make it longer and keep the viewers from finding out important stuff that could have been solved earlier or faster.
- Some of the dialog came across as lame (and that’s comin’ from me!). The banter between the characters sounded like they were trying to emulate Marvel movies but didn’t quite get it.
- Chemistry between the main actors didn’t do it for me. DeHaan is great as a stoic stoner type (like in METALLICA THROUGH THE NEVER), suited more for a BABY DRIVER or NEIGHBORS-type of film than a leading “roguish charmer” Han Solo dude. (This would’ve been good for Tom Fooze, but they probably couldn’t afford him; at over $210 mil, this was the most expensive film ever made in France). And the romance came off forced from the get-go as each character had to (literally) explain their attraction, personality type and feelings toward each other, rather than show it. (See STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE on how to do it right.)
- Rutger Hauer as the President of the World State Federation was a waste, as he had a few lines and seemed like he was onscreen for like a minute at most. He’s too cool to use that little.
- With something like 800 different species aboard the Alpha, I would have liked to see a lot more alien interaction. (Rumor is that Luc Besson prepared a 600-page book on all the aliens and required the actors to read it to learn how to interact with each species. So why do we only see less than a dozen?) The filmmakers may have more installments planned, but for the first one I’d have preferred the whole thing to take place on Alpha and how it works.
- As cool as those aliens were designed, the execution suffered from the common CG issue of each species having more or less the identical body. There were no fat and thin or muscular and lithe versions of one species—each was one type, no matter how many there were. (Take a look at a beach or mall sometime and tell me that all humans have the same bod!)
- No buttons during or after the credits.
Big SF fans will want to see this just out of curiosity, if for nothing else. And fans of the comics should see how it stacks up to the source. It’s entertaining but I just see too much other stuff I like more. This ain’t STAR WARS or STAR TREK by any means but it will keep you more or less interested if you want something different than those two or something where can turn the sound off for a while and not care. The first 30 minutes are better than the middle 60 or so.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed by Bru-Hed are not necessarily those of Wednesday’s Heroes, Mike Pascale, the Human Federation, the World State Federation, the Federation of Planets, Federated Appliances, the Federation of Fedoras, alien races or the human race. He’d dig flying thru space with a babe, as long as he didn’t have to protect her or himself.