Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) (mini-review++)

If you’re curious, here’s my review process.Also, I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.

(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)

acting 3

directing 5

effects 7

editing 5

writing 3

SW SCORE: 23

2.5 out of 5

++

Here’s the setup (my favorite part about sci-fi movies is the setup/world building): humanity and alien races from across the universe have met and designated a neutral city, Alpha, as a place to congregate and exchange knowledge for the betterment of sentient life everywhere. There’s a charming sequence of many cool looking alien races shaking hands with a human representative. It’s set to David Bowie’s Space Oddity. I was pumped. This was a cool intro!

You know the old story about the tortoise and the hare, right? It’s not how you start, you know? Yeah, you know. So you know what I’m about to tell you, right? Right? Right.

Con: In a movie with a gigantic budget that relies on special effects to convey its world and its inhabitants, you would think your CGI would be pristine. It’s not. It’s noticeably awkward.

Pro: the opening scene on an alien beach is a master class in conveying deep emotion with the sparest of dialogue

Pro: there is a really cool scene that really shocked me

BUT Con: it was also super derivative of the ending of a Star Trek film & the whole setup could easily be a Star Trek TNG episode. Not that there’s anything wrong with TNG.

Pro: the costumes and the world are unique and creative and well executed

Con: the dialogue is drowning in a sea of very boring exposition

Con: super security agents wear beach wear to a mission

Con: the two protagonists, Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) deliver what I believe to be the worst lead acting performances in a movie of this budget. They are, well, I don’t want to go on a rant. But if you check out their careers after this film, you will notice a distinct lack of memorable performance, tv show roles, or movie turns. Apparently the casting establishment shares my opinion.

Con: the aesthetic and vibe of this whole joint feels like a none-too-subtle impersonation of Fifth Element, one of Luc Besson’s more adored films. I guess you gotta dance with the girl who brung ya.

Con: the leads are ostensibly falling in love with each other, but they have absolutely no heat or chemistry. They deliver their lines like someone doing lines with an actor who just reads them in a monotone cadence.

Con: the dialogue is littered with cliches

Con: they are supposed to have been selected for their elite military positions because they are brilliant. But they make such glaringly stupid mistakes, it strains credulity to accept that.

Neutral: it seems every sci-fi movie is required by law to feature a pleasure district. Don’t come at me with examples of ones that don’t. I’m just saying it’s damn common. It’s well designed and all but it’s terribly predictable.

Pro: Ethan Hawke is charming.

Pro: Rihanna appears to be included just to star in a scene where she is basically doing a music video but her role involves into one of her best acting performances.

Con: Clive Owen, who was steely, subtle menace in Inside Man, gives us a clinic in overacting melodramatic delivery.

Con: the leads continue to deliver wooden performances and just when I think DeHaan is the worst actor between them, Delevingne steps up (down?) and takes the crown. And vice versa.

Con: the emperor of the Hammerhead Orcs and his little helper are a Jabba the Hutt rip off.

Con: the slapstick moments are completely atonal

Con: they decided to make the genocide amount in their film six million. I don’t see why that allegory was necessary and it doesn’t fit with anything else in the film.

Con: the romantic cliches give Star Wars: Episode II a run for its money.

Con: “god these moments are terrible” is the note I wrote. It seems pretty vague but it reasonably applies to almost all the moments in the movie.

Con: these aliens aesthetically are awfully derivative to the Avatar aliens

Con: the bad acting is not restricted to the leads; the small roles were very small performances

Con: These evil robot soldiers remind me of the Imperial military robots in The Phantom Menace. I should not have to explain why being associated with the prequels is very, very bad.

Con: the movie just gets progressively worse in terms of acting and the resolution involves characters that barely appear until the end of the movie. If you want the audience to become emotionally invested in the character seeking justice, you should probably introduce them before the 3rd act.

19 cons

5 pros (6 if you count the fun setup)

1 neutral

To paraphrase Rasheed Wallace, math don’t lie.

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(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.

(2) Octopuses (0-5 , with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)

(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so

(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)

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