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Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets

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Valerian? Isn’t that a root one chews to fall asleep?

I saw Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element near the end of its run in the theaters, and it was love at first frame. I loved its Manichean/ancient astronauts plot, unique and dazzling visual style (imagine the Coen brothers remaking Barbarella), the madcap action, blond Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman’s Zorg (an evil Ross Perot with slightly displaced Hitler hair and Fu Manchu’s wardrobe), Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo (“perfect”), the blue diva, and of course THE SCREEEEEEEEAM.

Ever since, The Fifth Element in its screen, VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray incarnations has been on my short list of “comfort films”: movies that I watch at least once a year when I am home alone for a holiday or feeling out of sorts.

I never got into Besson’s other films, and for 20 years now, I have been wishing that he would do another film like The Fifth Element. What I got was Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Careful what you wish for.

I really wanted to like this movie and saw the first non-3D screening in my neighborhood. Valerian has the imaginative visual style and thrilling action of The Fifth Element, but the plot is unoriginal, politically correct, and often quite boring: basically a mashup of Zootopia and Avatar.

Zootopia is the ludicrous “city of a thousand planets,” a vast space station that looks like a garbage dump on the outside and is basically one large Star Wars cantina on the inside, i.e., a terrifying mass of seething diversity and vibrancy and decadence — replete with filth, corruption, slavery, and cannibalism.

The other setting is basically Avatar‘s Pandora, populated by opalescent androgynous primitives who — they tell us twice in the same dialogue bubble — lived in “harmony” with nature until evil colonialist types came along and spoiled things. There’s also a dash of holocaust sanctimony (six million dead, a diaspora of miraculous survivors, etc.) to trigger the tear ducts of the college educated and signal that the movie is now serious for a sec.

If there’s a message to this movie, it is that the denizens of the Star Wars cantina need to feel guilty of colonialism and genocide and perhaps atone with some more diversity. That, and that one should not trust authority or keep oaths, but one should trust one’s girlfriend, and don’t even think of breaking promises to her.

The lead roles of Valerian and Laureline are absurdly miscast. Dane DeHaan is the most uncharismatic leading man in movie history. Action heroes should look like Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, or Ryan Reynolds, not a prepubescent Leonardo DiCaprio with bags under his eyes. Cara Delevingne is beautiful, but as an actress . . . well, she makes Milla Jovovich and even Natalie Portman look like RADA graduates. Their love affair would have been appealingly wholesome if there were any chemistry between them at all.

I will say nothing of the plot, save that involves good guys and bad guys, both of which are trying to find something really important. There’s also a boy and a girl who have a somewhat stormy mutual attraction. There are lots of chases and fights, then a pretty happy ending with a pop song over the closing credits.

My favorite bits were the trio of fast-talking Jew birds and the scene with the new blue diva, this one a dancer.

Valerian is a huge disappointment, but I will probably watch it again, and with any luck it will someday settle into the so-bad-it’s-good category, along with Barbarella and Flash Gordon. It might even make back its 209 million dollar budget with midnight movie showings, sometime well into the 23rd century.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Pietas
    Posted July 30, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    God I went to see this movie anyway and talk about insipid–I just walked out.

    Dunkirk is not the subversive coup they are making it; while a good movie, they say such things as “Churchill saved 300k”

  2. Richard Benson
    Posted July 25, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t see this one, but I know the French comic series (started in 1967) which this movie was based on was a huge thematic and visual influence on George Lucas’s Star Wars series. Some of the similarities almost amount to plagiarism. What was so visually dazzling in the comics was brought to the screen very effectively in the SW series and its imitators, so much of what was fresh and imaginative in the comics now seems derivative and done to death, and is probably why this adaptation got a lukewarm reception.

    • Richard Benson
      Posted July 25, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Val%C3%A9rian_and_Laureline

      “Several commentators, such as Kim Thompson of The Comics Journal,[22] film critic Jean-Philippe Guerand[23] and the newspaper Libération,[24] have noted certain similarities between the Valérian albums and the Star Wars film series. Both series are noted for the “lived-in” look given to their various settings and for the diverse alien creatures they feature. Mézières’ response upon seeing Star Wars was that he was “dazzled, jealous… and furious!”.[25] As a riposte, Mézières produced an illustration for Pilote magazine in 1983 depicting the Star Wars characters Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa meeting Valérian and Laureline in a bar surrounded by a bestiary of alien creatures typical of that seen in both series. “Fancy meeting you here!” says Leia. “Oh, we’ve been hanging around here for a long time!” retorts Laureline.[26] Mézières has since been informed that Doug Chiang, design director on The Phantom Menace, kept a set of Valérian albums in his library.[10]”

  3. Lemur
    Posted July 25, 2017 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    Sightly off topic, but I wonder if ‘Trevor Lynch’ might get around to reviewing Dead Poets Society and Donnie Darko?

    I have always thought these films dealt respectively with the collapse of the American WASP ruling class, and then the dissolution of that class’ ethnic base.

  4. Cali.Yuga
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    You didn’t mention what you thought of the Chris Tucker character.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted July 24, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      But I did. He was a scream.

      • Cali.Yuga
        Posted July 24, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        I can’t believe I forgot that. My mistake.

  5. 1rw
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I think the review is a bit too harsh. For one thing the movie has a unique visual style that is quite impressive. It also has some important lessons, even redpills if you look.

    For one thing, the space savages whose planet gets destroyed are an object lesson. They had their life figured out, it was pleasant and lulled them into a naive sense of complacency. Until their world was destroyed because it was in the way of more powerful, more ruthless, and also more pro-active beings. To me this is a parallel to white normies, who blithely live in their lives, believe the bullshit served up in school and on TV, and whose world ends up being crushed by forces they are basically unaware of. Imagine the space battle as Goldman Sachs et al placing a put on some subprime mortgage papers.

    Another thing, this movie, surprisingly let the guy be the one who excels at fighting. When Lauraline has to save Valerian, she almost doesn’t engage in combat to do it. She uses surprise and manipulation to win the one fight she engages in. For the rest of the quest, no fighting. Actually she lets another guy perform dangerous combat maneuvers on her behalf. When Valerian reciprocates, he starts by blowing away an alien and finishes by slaughtering a good portion of their royal household, king included. So points for upholding traditional gender roles – manipulation and sneakiness for the fairer sex, brutal physical combat for the men.

    Once cast out of paradise, our androgynous savages awaken. They learn about how the world works and become subjects, rather than objects of history. They then work towards building a world for them, instead of melting into the wild menagerie of Alpha. Regardless of powerful opposition and slim odds, they keep their dream alive.

    Anyway, the movie is far less pozzed than you’d think, with all major actors being white btw, no obvious degeneracy or race mixing, racial segregation in fact( all species have their own turf), and has things that even WNs can learn from.

  6. Pietas
    Posted July 23, 2017 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Idk I dont share your affection for fifth element. I saw it once in theatres and didn’t like it didn’t hate it. As I recall in that movie there was a scene wherein the female clone creature watches videos of the wrongs in human history(holocaust, fascism, etc.) weeps, and “gets woke.” Even at that relatively young age, as a relative liberal, I found that sort of cheap grace revolting.

    I put those sorts of virtue signaling–appeals to the holocaust, claims to have been involved in the civil rights movement,etc.–similar to expistulayions of “praise Jesus” and “god is good” in the earlier paradigm.

    • Pietas
      Posted July 23, 2017 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      They put it in for the critics obviously. One has to develop a blind spot for it if you are going to enjoy any culture these days.

    • Othmar Regin
      Posted July 30, 2017 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      It’s sad really, every time history and evil are combined in Art an image of Hitler or Auswtiz is shown – never the killing fields in Cambodia, or Stalinist gulags or the number of other Communist “Revolutions” or even the Inquisition it ALWAYS has to be Hitler.

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