Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Valerian and the City of 1000 Planets

I scored a pair of free tix to a prescreening via a sweepstakes, and just got back from seeing it.  Initial thoughts?  I...have some quibbles.

There are some interesting cameos, like Rutger Hauer and John Goodman, but Hauer uses a strange accent and Goodman's cameo is voice only!  Ethan Hawke also has a cameo, and then the main character unceremoniously kills him.

The dialogue is obscured by the sound effects in many places, especially the AI's voice at the beginning, to the point where you'll have to wait for the film to be released on DVD and watch with subtitles to figure out exactly what is being said.  The dialogue is additionally obscured at a climactic point in the film when the villain gives an order which is impossible to make out, but was apparently supposed to be important.  (I'll keep coming back to this problem.)

Valerian's weapon is apparently multi-function.  However, it's often not clear exactly what it's doing or has just done, because the camera moves too fast.  It would have been nice if he had voice-selected the option he were about to use or something of the sort.
This multi-functionality is abandoned in the last act of the film.  Valerian forgets that his weapon can do all these cool things, and instead just uses it to kill, chill, or electrocute people/robots.  No more does he create temporary bridges with it or the like, something which would have been useful at a certain episode of the film.

There's a segment where Laureline goes to get a jellyfish for...reasons.  It lives in an underwater part of the space station but has information on where Valerian crashed during a starship chase in outer space because...reasons?

Laureline has a group of informants who work with her in the first half of the film.  Immediately upon the conclusion of their business with her, they rat her out to the administration.  It's trying to either play this for humor or for suspense, but it fails miserably at both, and the whole event just comes across as confounding.

There's a main character that we think is going to join Valerian and Laureline on their quest until, wait, no, SPOILER ALERT, [they die,] because of, again, mumbled dialogue (read: plot contrivance).  It's a waste of potential for an amazing character.  In fact, it's the third best character in the film, and the only other character in the film, besides the two leads, with any depth whatsoever.  You don't really get a chance to learn the names of any of the other characters.  Most because they're barely used, if at all, but at least one of them because of the shoddy audio mix quality of the dialogue/sound effects.

The main characters have barely any chemistry from the get-go.  Or maybe it's the actors portraying them.  Either way, I never believed much in the romance, and an ending where they didn't end up together would have been more organic.

The plot was pretty much telegraphed from the very first half hour of the film.  Sure, there were elements of the journey that were unforeseen, but overall, there wasn't a single element that I didn't see coming.

You can see things being included specifically as set pieces throughout the film, even when they don't actually add anything particular to the story.  Just, "gotta show this, gotta show that," etc, etc.  All of which serves to pad the 137 minute running time of the film, but not to help the story much.

At the end of the film, there's an action sequence that's supposed to showcase just how much of a badass Valerian truly is, as compared to all the Federation's soldiers, but the way it's shot is so poor that even in 3D, or perhaps because of it, it's just really confusing to watch, and makes you think "so why couldn't the soldiers do that?"

What a waste of potential.  I loved the opening sequence of the film, set to Bowie's "Space Oddity," which shows the international space station, and plays a montage of the inhabitants welcoming new nations into it, as it grows, and grows...and GROWS.

The movie is safe for kids, as they likely won't understand the couple/few references to (unspecified sexual) "conquests", understand Valerian and Laureline's flirting, nor understand the point of the (non-strip) tease show which Valerian watches.  The single curse word in the entire film, "shit," sounds like "shoot," on account of the poor audio mix quality of the dialogue/sound effects.  (Also, that understanding makes sense in context.)

The film is cinematically lush, has many moments of humor,  contains a plethora of visual nods (including the presence of many of the same alien species) to The Fifth Element, and is, overall, a fun ride.

(The Fifth Element was so much better, though!)

No comments: