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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets movie review: story of a thousand clichés

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
There is barely an original thought in this wackadoodle sci-fi panto, just a lot of tiresome passé attitudes skidding among bug-eyed-monster set dressing.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): big science fiction fan
I’m “biast” (con): mostly not a fan of Luc Besson
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Boy, Luc Besson sure has me pegged! When I, a woman, think about having adventures in the future in space, I always imagine that I am perfect and brilliant and that whatever journey I needed to take to achieve this superiority to all others around me is so unimportant that it’s not worth mentioning. I dunno, maybe women are born perfect. Maybe Besson just somehow knows that women are not flawed, complicated, messed-up human beings but paragons of light and honor who exist solely to serve as ultimate ideals for men to aspire to, and to be inspired by. Anyway, oh yes, in my head, I dream of being able to hang out with a fucked-up jerk who wants nothing else to but to get into my pants, and to one day deliver to him a speech about the power of love that will finally elevate him to such worthiness as I will at last deign to suck face with him. This is my fantasy. And Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the cinematic realization of it. Thank you, Luc Besson (Lucy, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec), writer and director, for understanding women geeks so well.

“Deactivated? Is this where the subplot about my hopes and fears got tossed?”

“Deactivated? Is this where the subplot about my hopes and fears got tossed?”tweet

*deep, calming breath*

I am utilizing sarcasm only so that I do not fly off into a gut-busting, vein-bursting rage.

I am also laughing out loud, derisively, at the idea that Valerian is an “original” story (as seen in a piece at Vulture fretting that the flopping of this movie in the US means audiences just can’t handle anything science-fictional that isn’t Marvel or Star Wars). And I’m not talking about the fact that this is based on the visually influential French comic Valerian and Laureline. (Why she has been demoted from the title of this movie adaptation is a rant for another day.) I’m talking about the fact that there is barely a single original thought or moment in this way-too-long movie. Is reckless bad-boy-who-sleeps-around-and-can’t-commit secret-agent Valerian (a woefully miscast Dane DeHaan: A Cure for Wellness, Life) meant to be a fresh and clever invention? Is his partner, supercompetent Laureline (an only slightly less miscast Cara Delevingne: Suicide Squad, Paper Towns), who is always saving his ass from his own ineptness? (Why is this his story, and not hers, if she’s so awesome? This is a dynamic we see way too often.) Dude is constantly hitting on her, asking her to marry him, and will not take No for an answer, and eventually she does give in… she has to, because she is his inevitable sexual prize at the end of the movie. (See, guys? No does mean Yes, eventually! What a wonderful lesson for us all.) Is any of this anything our collective pop-cultural storytelling hasn’t been positively steeped in since forever?

It’s centuries in the future, and Besson is invoking sexual norms on a par with The Jetsons.
tweet

Spoiler: It is not.

You know, some real science-fictional thinking maybe wouldn’t be so heteronormative, so 1950s sexually conservative, might actually give us some human beings who were more expansive in their outlooks on love and sex. It’s centuries in the future here! Does Besson really want to invoke sexual norms on a par with The Jetsons?

(Ah, I would like to know how the hell this is supposed to be the 28th century, which all the marketing — including the film’s official site — says it is. The opening sequence jumps from the 21st century to the year 2150 — aka 22nd century — and then it leaps to “400 years later,” ie, 2550-ish, which is the film’s setting in time. That’s 26th century.)

“Pandora? Never heard of it.”

“Pandora? Never heard of it.”tweet

Also, this is a movie about how Valerian — with some moral prodding from Laureline — will be a human savior to noble-savage aliens, beautiful and peaceful and gentle and patrician who look pretty human except taller and more willowy, but still with pert breasts you can almost see under their filmy clothes. Pretty aliens who can help Valerian become a better man: this is what consumes most of the convoluted plot of this dumb movie. You know what would have been kinda cool? If the movie had been about those aliens instead of about the human asshole who mostly thinks with his penis and we’re supposed to imagine that makes him cool.

(As with Besson’s The Fifth Element, this is a movie in which entire worlds are saved from ultimate destruction because a man learned the meaning of love. The narcissism of this is breathtaking.tweet)

You know what would have been cool and clever and fresh and original and not something we’d already seen a half a gazillion times? If any of the aliens here were anything more than bug-eyed-monster set dressingtweet in a wackadoodle sci-fi panto, if some truly alien ideas and truly alien cultures had any impact whatsoever on anything that happens.

Cringeworthy banter is meant to indicate a palpable sexual tension between Valerian and Laureline (it fails).
tweet

There is one clever science-fictional thing I don’t recall ever seeing before here: a sequence involving a mission to steal a macguffin across dimensions. This really is authentically science-fictional. (The macguffin? It’s a magical alien aardvark that shit-replicates whatever you feed it. That’s not science fiction: that’s just wishful thinking. The little critter is cute, though.) But that consumes about 10 minutes in this two-hour-plus movie. Mostly, I see clichés. I see a lot of neon lighting up an alien marketplace — so original. I see muddled space chases in which it’s difficult to see anything that’s happening except when Valerian and Laureline’s ship slips through narrow spaces just like the Millennium Falcon does, by flipping sideways. I see that we can instantly guess who the villain is, from the moment that character steps onscreen. I see a city of a thousand planets, a space station that is a conglomerate of hundreds of alien races, and yet almost every significant character is human, and most of those are white and male. I see “dazzling” CGI standing in for character and story.tweet I see cringeworthy banter meant to indicate a palpable sexual tension between Valerian and Laureline (it fails). I see that men cannot imagine a future in which women are not sold sexually to men.tweet

“We’re actually quite enlightened beings with a rich culture, but sure, we’ll do an alien shuck-and-jive for you.”

“We’re actually quite enlightened beings with a rich culture, but sure, we’ll do an alien shuck-and-jive for you.”tweet

Oh, didn’t I mention? The only other substantive female character in Besson’s wet dream of a movietweet is literally a sex slave — one with a heart of gold, of course — whom Valerian can rescue, and who will then also serve his personal journey to make him a better person. Alien Bubble can shapeshift to suit a man’s fantasies — like, say, Valerian’s — and whaddaya know? Men’s ideas about “sexy” are still stuck on “naughty schoolgirl” and “French maid.” Seriously? Bonus points to Besson to casting singer Rihanna (Home, Annie) as Bubble, because then Valerian gets to be not only a human savior to a downtrodden alien but also a more tediously traditional white savior. Original? Not in the least.

This is no reflection on Rihanna, whom I think is terrific, but the entire sequence with Bubble could have been deleted from the film without impacting the story one whit, which would have had the additional benefit of bringing the running time down to something more reasonable. The fact that it remains tells us how friggin’ much Besson is into his alien-sex-slave-with-a-heart-of-gold rescue fantasy. Barf.

I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit on these fake geek dudestweet who don’t have a science-fictional idea in their heads that does not serve their boners, their sense of supremacy, or their assumed privilege. Someday, maybe, if they try hard enough, they might come up with a story that doesn’t put themselves squarely at the center of the universe, that actually takes advantage of the whole damn point of science fiction: that it allows you to imagine the world as something other than it is. But I doubt it.


red light 1 star

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) | directed by Luc Besson
US/Can release: Jul 21 2017
UK/Ire release: Aug 02 2017

MPAA: rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate violence, sex references, language)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Owen1120

    Is this even more irritatingly faux-feminist than Emoji Movie?

  • RogerBW

    Shame. It looked pretty from the trailer, and I had hopes this might end up better than Jupiter Ascending, but it’s very easy to make a film look pretty.

  • Jim Mann

    The movie is interesting visually, and the one scene that you liked is pretty much the one I liked also. I also liked the first few minutes on the space station, where we see alien envoys one after another arrive over time. But the main character was both so annoying and so dull that it hurt what could have been an entertaining film (if nowhere near as imaginative film as the director and studio seem to think it is).

    I also agree that it’s too long, and the whole Bubble scene could have been cut with no impact at all on the film.

  • Bluejay

    Yeah, those dreadfully antiquated attitudes on gender are straight from the source material (from what I’ve read of it). This seems to be a case where being a faithful adaptation isn’t a good thing.

  • ketac6

    Oh. I really hoped this was going to be better than that.

  • PJK

    Luc Besson’s sin with this movie is two-fold: on the one hand he follows the source material too closely in some parts of the movie and on the other hand he strays away from the material too much in other parts.

    The main story arc of the movie is based on the comic album “Ambassador of the Shadows”, the sixth volume of the original comic book series.

    The villains motivation has been changed and the ending of that story is referenced in dialog as the reasoning for hiding what happened to Planet Muer (not quite certain about the name) which changes the point the album is trying to make.

    The cute money making animal is also directly from this album (but not connected to the main aliens in any form) as are the three pterodactyl like aliens whose role and actions are almost directly from the album.

    Bubble and the aliens who capture Laureline don’t exist in that form, though there are shapeshifters who fulfill the same role as Bubble in the story (though it is Laureline who uses a male alien to get close to a kidnapped Valerian).

    Much of the story in the album feels like something from the sixties or seventies (not strange as the album is from 1975) but with more female empowerment than was typical for stories created in those days. The story is also more cerebral than it is an action story, so that is why Luc added a lot of action scenes which are not present in the album.

    He’s expanded the location of the comic significantly (because the space station in the comic is much smaller) and changed its origin (non-human in the comic) which on the one hand makes it more spectacular but on the other hand changes the stakes of the story a lot.

    The whole plot around the white aliens isn’t part of the album and as such is the most obvious thing that Luc Besson added himself. There is a group of aliens in the album whose story sort of provides the skeleton of the white aliens storyline, but their story is significantly different that most of the movies plot is regarding the white aliens is new.

    The most grievous changes he has made are in the characters of both Valerian and Laureline.

    Valerian is a much more mature character in the comics. He still screws up and has to be saved by Laureline (who is smarter than he is) regularly, but he isn’t the womanizing frat-boy character that the movie makes him into. Laureline is as competent or more than the movie makes her out to be, but she’s also much less dour. With these changes to the characters their relationship is also different from the comics. In the comics they are more playful and loving towards each other.

    That last thing really made the movie less enjoyable for me. If I where making the movie I would have hired actors in their thirties to add some maturity i.s.o actors in their twenties who have to act like people in their late teens with the sort of high school drama associated with movies about that age group.

    So from a visual point of view the movie is very well done. The SFX are wonderfully done, the movie for the most part feels very different from an American SF movie, which makes it something different, but the main plotline and character changes seem to have been done to appeal to US teenage audiences and that doesn’t merge well with the way the original comics where written, which felt much more mature and fun i.s.o this angsty relationship nonsense.

    So for me the movie was a 7/10 (see it as a popcorn flick, leave you brain at the door), my friends gave it a 6/10. I’m a much more forgiving movie viewer than they are.

  • PJK

    I have to disagree with that. The comic album this is mostly based on, “Ambassador to the Shadows”, has quite a different gender dynamic than the movie. The comic album puts a much greater emphasis on Laureline as the protagonist, relegating Valerian to a much less prominent role.

    Also the relationship between Valerian and Laureline is much more one of friends and colleagues at this point in the comics (I’ve only read the first 9 albums, as they’ve been reissued in three album hardcovers with commentaries with/extended information from both the original creators of the comic and Luc Besson) and as such doesn’t feel antiquated to me (but that might be my male view on things). Whether this changes in later albums I don’t know (as those haven’t been reissued yet).

  • Bluejay

    I don’t think I read “Ambassador to the Shadows.” The story I remember is the one where they’re on a planet of warring “male” and “female” societies and the gender essentialism rubbed me the wrong way. And Valerian struck me as a cad who was drunk half the time. But I yield to your greater knowledge of the source material. :-)

    In any case, if Besson doesn’t even have the “faithful adaptation” excuse to fall back on, then that makes his backwards chauvinism even worse.

  • PJK

    That’s the fourth album, “World without Stars”, where Valerian indeed comes of as a bit of drunkard at the start because the people they are assisting keep handing him more booze.
    And the way he handles himself at the end of the album doesn’t make him look great either.

    The album does deal with a imperiled society (it’s inside an asteroid hurtling towards a human colonised planet) which is divided into three parts (a male run city, a female run city and a nomadic traders group), that album struck me as flipping over typical gender roles and plays with the preconceived notions of those roles as exhibited in the early 70’s (when it was created). The female led society is more like a typical warrior society, where the women are strong and the men are caregivers and cannon fodder, where as the male society is more beauty oriented and artistic. Here the women are the soldiers and workers.

    There is some problematic content where Laureline enters a sort of talent contest to get close to the ruler of the male city, which she wins not because of her talents (she’s a terrible cook, can’t sing and makes a mess of the weaving part of the competition) but because the ruler finds her attractive. She then becomes part of his harem.

    But the same can be said about Valerian who becomes part of the brood stock of the female led city after having survived the battle between the cities.

    But in the end the story revolves around making both sides of the society realize that they need each other and that there is a whole universe outside their asteroid, which BTW will be destroyed if they don’t work together to change the trajectory of their home.

    Now I’m not saying that the way the story ends stands up to our modern sensibilities, but I guess for 1972 it was probably very modern thinking.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    “…a woefully miscast Dane DeHaan…”
    By this I assume you mean, “some damn fool hired him to be an actor in a movie”. OK, I’ve only ever seen him in this and “Amazing 2”, but those two performances give me no cause to think he has any business as a leading actor. DeHaan is an empty shell, devoid of anything like charisma, expression, or life. Cara Delevigne appears like she has more screen charisma than on display here, where she’s hobbled by horrendous dialog and an astounding lack of chemistry. For all the story problems of “The Fifth Element” (which are many, and cause the film to collapse under their weight in the final 10-15 minutes), what helps that film along, perhaps more than the visual style, is the cast. It’s a spectacular cast, with excellent chemistry. And that’s even with Bruce Willis doing his John McClane bit.

    I just have so many questions…

    Why is Alpha in interstellar space? Wouldn’t it have been easier to put into a heliocentric orbit?

    Sure, the inter-dimensional shopping mall is kind of cool, but… why? They can transport objects, even entire living organisms, between dimensions, so why not do that?

    Why are all the ground transports made from redressed school buses?

    Why was it important to wait for the “U for ‘human’ to be green”? Valerian wanders somewhere and the “U” is read, but nothing bad happens (as a result of that).

    The Commander says none of the guards/troops/whatever sent to the “Red Zone” came back. Who did he send? The Mul aliens have very effective, non-lethal weapons, and don’t appear to have any prisoners. So what to happened to them? Did the Commander not actually send anyone? Did everyone in charge of Alpha just take his word for it?

    Speaking of the Commander, how did he manage to maintain this massive conspiracy by himself? It was apparently only necessary to eliminate one witness, the science officer.

    Speaking of the battle over Mul, what was that about? Who were the combatants? (Humans vs…. someone?) What were they fighting over? (Certainly not the replicators, or everyone would have known about the sentient, pre-industrial humanoid on the planet.)

    The entire interlude with Bubble is predicated on the idea that Valerian can’t just shoot the place up without sparking a diplomatic incident. So, he recruits Bubble, sneaks in, and… shoots up the place, yet somehow doesn’t spark a diplomatic incident?

    So many questions…

  • bronxbee

    doesn’t even *pretend* to be faux-feminist….

  • Owen1120

    I was thinking of the “strong woman has no flaws and is great at everything” cliche that I thought applied to Laureline.

  • amanohyo

    So you subjected yourself to this mess too. “Woefully miscast” is the biggest understatement of the decade. How can a dedicated fan of the comics cast pasty, baby-faced, wheedling Dane DeHaan as the square-jawed OG Han? DeHaan was great in Chronicle because his role called for a wimpy, insecure underdog, but I hated his Valerian more than I hate Shinji Ikari, Joffrey Baratheon, and Scrappy Doo combined. He’s somehow both gratingly bratty and relentlessly boring.

    I’m convinced that in the absence of DeHaan, Delevingne’s acting would feel noticeably wooden and amateurish, but her performance appears comparatively competent in a nebulous way. Like everyone else, my favorite scene was the interdimensional heist, probably because it had the least amount of dialogue. That’s what really sunk the ship for me – that monotonous mountain range of pointless, unnecessary infodumpage peppered with genuinely cringey “romantic” banter. I literally retracted into my chair like the eyestalk of a snail whenever the two main characters had a “playful” conversation.

    After that promising virtual flea market heist, I fell asleep three times trying to endure the rest – all while sitting in the front row of a crowded theater. The only other time I remember falling asleep in a theater more than once was during the fourth film of a quadruple feature. Even Wing Commander and Space Mutiny (non MST3K to boot) were able to prevent my brain from seeking refuge in the arms of unconsciousness.

    Who are these madmen and women throwing millions of dollars at Besson? Google tells me the French government had a hand in this? For the love of Jove, stop giving him money! Like the Wachowskis, he had two good movies in him, maybe two and a half if we count the decent parts of Fifth Element. He is a fifty-eight-year-old man with a twelve-year-old boy’s understanding of any human being without a penis. Stop and read a book Luc. Just one well-written book with a female character. Please? Luc, Luuuuuc… why do I bother?

  • amanohyo

    Thank you for the background info and comparison with the comics. It’s interesting that by trying to make the main characters’ personalities more relatable and appealing to modern audiences, Besson accomplished exactly the opposite. I think I would have preferred the old-fashioned macho-man/ sexy smart sidekickette traditional gender role dynamic of the originals to the stilted teen babble we ended up with. I get the feeling Besson was trying to subvert these tropes by making Laureline more sarcastic and assertive, but at no point did I buy that these two characters were real people who had spent any significant amount of time together. During most of their conversations, I could barely believe that they were in the same room.

    Besson also has never had much of a sense for pacing, a weakness that admittedly matters less and less in this era of shrinking attention spans, and strangely for such a visually strong director, he rarely trusts the ability of his images to communicate and carry the story. Most of his movies would be significantly more entertaining if around 75% of the dialogue were removed. He desperately needs the assistance of a good writer/editor or at least one of those albino opossums that poops out a dozen decent scripts every time you feed it a shitty one.

  • bronxbee

    oh, i see.

  • amanohyo

    After reading your questions, I realized that I slept through a lot more of this movie that I thought, or maybe I just aggressively stopped caring about twenty minutes in. To be fair, a lot of the poorly thought-out sci-fi fantasy nonsense is inherited from the dated source material, but I have an additional mundane question about the interdimensional Shopping Mall.

    There are clearly massive changes in elevation in the Mall dimension, but all of the shoppers are walking on flat ground in the desert dimension. If their helmets are able to give them the illusory sensation of moving up and down, then why walk around at all? What happens when one shopper is located directly above another one… say on the second floor of the same shop? Is this Mall projected from a single 2D floor plan a la Doom? That seems kinda low tech.

    I vaguely remember some book (Otherland maybe?) in which the helmets automatically corrected the course of the walkers so they wouldn’t collide, but as the density of shoppers increases, that solution becomes less and less effective. Oh well. It probably doesn’t pay to look for any layers beneath the eye-candy. I have a feeling there’s nothing to find except a hollow virgin/whore core.

  • As bronxbee says, there is absolutely no pretense to anything remotely feminist in this film.

  • That’s not feminist. That’s a fantasy of a man who doesn’t like women who are actually human.

  • alien envoys one after another arrive over time

    That’s pretty cool… except none of those aliens and none of the humans greeting them are characters in this movie, and the story is not about first contact!

  • If I where making the movie I would have hired actors in their thirties

    Your point is taken, but Dane DeHaan is actually 31. :-)

  • “some damn fool hired him to be an actor in a movie”

    I’ve liked DeHaan in lots of stuff. He’s terrific as James Dean in 2015’s Life, for instance. But he’s an actual *actor,* not a movie star. He needs a real character to craft and a director who actually cares about character. He doesn’t get those here.

    All of your questions are good ones. The mystery that really stuck with me is this: The infodump their ship’s AI gives Valerian and Laureline as they approach Alpha suggests they’ve never been there before (though that seems unlikely), and yet Valerian knows about the butterflies-as-fishing lure thing even though: 1) He’s probably never been on Alpha before, and even if he has, 2) He’s in an area no one else besides those lumpy aliens venture into, and 3) He’s been unconscious until Laureline wakes him up, so he cannot have witnessed the lure thing happen earlier (and if it did, it would suggest that someone else had been there). The worst thing about all of this is that he doesn’t need to know this specific thing. He could have just witnessed Laureline being hauled away without realizing *why* that’s happening, and gone after her.

    There’s a *lot* of stupid, lazy writing in this movie.

  • He is a fifty-eight-year-old man with a twelve-year-old boy’s understanding of any human being without a penis.

    I would suggest that his understanding of men stops at the age of 12 as well.

  • Stacy Livitsanis

    It’s more interesting when there’s disagreement about a movie (I absolutely adored the Wachowski’s Speed Racer, while Maryann did not, to put it mildly), and as someone who loved Leon and The Fifth Element, I looked forward to loving this and mounting a defense…. But obviously that didn’t happen, because this is hideous. What absolute bullshit. Can’t disagree with a word of your review.

    Instead of going to see Valerian and the Ego of a Thousand Penises, perhaps instead watch any given episode of Star Trek Voyager. More interesting SF ideas, and some actual women.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Oh, gods, the infodump. I all but literally asked out loud, “Who are you talking to? Are we breaking the fourth wall here? Cause the characters on screen know all this.” There wasn’t so much as an obligatory “Well, as you know, Bob Valerian…”

    I’ll have to take your word for it on DeHaan. I know he’s well regarded in critical circles. I’ve even heard him described as the best thing in “TAM2”, to which my response is, no, he’s distractingly awful, which in that movie is saying something. I’d like to get around to “Life” and “Chronicle”. I’ve heard nothing good about “A Cure for Wellness”.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Both the intro on the station and the prelude on Mul work pretty well as short films.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    “Speed Racer” has a fairly large number of admirers. I was afraid you were going to say “the Wachowski’s ‘Jupiter Ascending'”, another train wreck of a movie with an inexplicable following – though I will cop to having a certain admiration for Eddie Redmane’s commitment to insanity in his performance.

  • (Why she has been demoted from the title of this movie adaptation is a rant for another day.)

    I’d ask you to write that rant, but I won’t subject you to it. I will just say that I knew nothing about the source materials, and just from the commercials, I had the same question. And the world marches drearily on.

  • Tonio Kruger

    …as seen in a piece at Vulture fretting that the flopping of this movie in the US means audiences just can’t handle anything science-fictional that isn’t Marvel or Star Wars).

    The Star Trek movies don’t count as science fiction anymore? What a pity.

  • Tonio Kruger

    You were obviously more impressed with the cast of The Fifth Element than I was. Then again Besson’s Lucy also had an impressive cast — and it stank.

  • IntrepidNormal

    Besson once wrote a sex scene involving a 12 year old girl and a middle aged man. Dude is the human embodiment of the word “yikes”

  • IntrepidNormal

    He’s an interesting-looking guy, and appears to be able to act for the most part, but he’s been in a lot of crushingly mediocre stuff. He’ll never be the next big thing at this rate, especially being 31, although the age thing sadly matters less for men, and he looks 18 anyway.

  • Dan

    yeah on that last one – also he doesn’t just shoot up the place, he (unnecessarily) kills their emperor – you think that might cause a diplomatic incident? Really this was one of the worst written films I have ever seen

  • Dan

    I thought Delevigne was actually quite good – when you take into account the awfulness of the script she had to deal with. She did better than anyone else in the film in my view

  • Rocío Leal

    I agree 100%. I’ll also give Besson an extra point for contributing to the “Bury your gays” trope (Spoiler ahead?)
    Since it’s implied that a female character feels attracted by another female, we can guess what her destiny will be…

  • Isn’t Jupiter Ascending’s following mostly ironic?

  • Who said that?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    *gestures at everything*

  • amanohyo

    Yeah, I agree – she was definitely the least annoying, most believable character (until the last few minutes). Given a different costar and a different script, it would be easier to tell exactly how well she did. As it is now, she might just be the shiniest turd on the mountain. Quite a lot of geeky people online are defending this movie as an “imaginative roller coaster ride.” To each their own, but I gotta say, I’ve never fallen asleep in the middle of a roller coaster ride before.

    I very rarely want a movie to fail, especially a passion project, but I really hope the international box office for this is abysmal. I don’t know whose decision it was to cast DeHaan, but that gentleman or lady needs to get a stern talking to. Apparently Besson is an avid scuba diver, maybe all the scene-setting infodumpage is inherited from old Cousteau docs? Did Besson idolize the comics so much that he wanted to carry over as much dialogue as possible from them verbatim? Whatever the reason, there’s waaaaay too much talking going on (ironic coming from me, I know). Luc, you’ve got an awesome visual crew, trust us, we’ll figure it out.

    Compare this to another visually striking French sci-fi/fantasy movie like The City of Lost Children and note how Caro and Jeunet place much more trust in the power of their images/music and the physical performances of the actors to sustain a similarly trippy, rambling, sometimes poorly paced story. I guess some of my friends do prefer a film to spell out things explicitly in a transparent “clearly all of the characters in this scene would know this, but here it is anyway for you slow folks in the audience,” infodump. It just feels so boring, inefficient, and condescending. I guess it comes down to whether or not you prefer looking for novel patterns or having preexisting patterns reinforced.

    Oh well, enough rambling, maybe this will find an audience at midnight showings in a few years. It’s not quite bad enough to be so bad it’s good, and it doesn’t have any depth of thought or interesting ideas, but it does have pearl-pooping opossums and anorexic albino alien underboob (what an odd coincidence that almost all of the aliens in the opening sequence had humanoid bodies, and the ones that featured prominently in the story happened to be the ones resembling super models on vacation at the beach)… maybe that’s enough to propel it to eventual ironic infamy.

  • Dan

    yeah im generally a fan of sci-fi blockbusters too, and they dont have to be highbrow by any means, but this is one of the first ones I’ve been too where I felt genuinely bored so early. It was just too obvious where everything was going, both from how consistently cliched it was, and how obviously they highlighted the major plot points. The pinnacle has to be the late ‘reveal’ that Clive Owen was the bad guy – as pointed out above it was so obvious he was the big bad from literally the minute he stepped onto the screen. There’s basically one of this genre of movies a week at the moment, we’ve all seen loads of them – you really have to consider your audience massively stupid to serve things up to them on such a plate.

    Interesting comparison to make is to something like Batman vs Superman – that was a terrible movie with a similarly bad plot full of holes, but somehow it was still much better than this

  • RogerBW

    Welcome, SF fans, to where women have been for years.

    (What I’ve seen of the new Star Trek films makes them look like basically action with a sci-fi skin.)
    I think the thinking goes that SF = special effects = big budget = needs to pander to a mass audience to get the financier-mandated rate of return.

  • Tonio Kruger

    The piece at Vulture that you mentioned.

  • Tonio Kruger

    And what I’ve seen of the Star Wars movies makes me think of sword and sorcery stories with robots — yet they’re still considered science fiction.

    Oh, well. At least things have improved a bit since the 1950s when most Hollywood producers’ idea of a science fiction movie was something about a giant bug.

    And I think you’re right about the rest of it, RogerBW.

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