Let me say right from the start that I love weirdo Euro Métal hurlant trippy science-fiction movies. Sometimes, the “worse” they get, the better they are, especially if you’re consuming them as part of a late-night, altered-state cinematic binge bender. You’ve never? You should. There used to be a party room at CONvergence dedicated to this very thing (a party room I cohosted and organized). This all goes to say that I was fully primed to write a few hundred words about how amazing Luc Besson’s latest extravaganza is.
That won’t be happening. In my independent writing, I am tempted to not publish if I have to give a bad review to a filmmaker or genre I otherwise have much invested in—I don’t see the merit, and I find no pleasure in delivering such bad news. Unfortunately, I do not have this luxury when writing for sites such as Twin Cities Geek. I will keep this short.
I hear the Internet loves lists. So here is a list of three reasons I am giving Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets the equivalent of a four-star rating on an IMDb scale of 10.
1. Valerian (Dane DeHaan)
There are going to be plenty of jokes about this in the years ahead, but as I don’t consider myself a humorist by trade, I will leave that to the jokesters. Let’s just say it is a strange approach to filmmaking when your “star” is less interesting than the CGI aliens, the spaceships, and any given background character actor. Maybe it’s experimental film to have the performance equivalent of negative space occupy nearly every single frame of your film. Not a successful experiment.
2. The Screenplay (Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières)
I’ve got all kinds of conjecture as to where exactly things went awry when the two comic creators behind the source material for this production were tasked with writing their feature film script. Dull dialogue that suffers from being both tone deaf upon delivery and hopelessly “on the nose” on the page fills the film from beginning to end. Consider, for example, the clip below. Could the dialogue and delivery for Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) be any less interesting? This is a movie with too many pretty pictures to process. Shut up already.
3. Homage, Homage, Homage
I love Star Wars. I love classic cheeseball science fiction. The amazing thing about this modern world is that I can watch those films anytime I want. Sure, its fun when an original director drops a nod to a shared influence, but at a certain point homage drifts into another lane that is annoying at best. Using a recurring musical motif that is a note or two away from “The Imperial March” is one major offense. Similar chase sequences can be found in both this and the Star Wars prequel films, and it is impossible to forgive the choice of using the line “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” in a a completely throwaway context. I came to see a Luc Besson movie. Not Luc Besson covering his favorite science-fiction films.
Now, to find that old DVD copy of The Fifth Element I have laying around here.