Review – Valeri-yuckk! (“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”)

Long enough title for ya? Based on the French comic book, Valerian and Laureline, and personally funded by writer/director Luc Besson, this ridiculous sci-fi/fantasy epic fail has the dubious distinction of being the most expensive personal movie ever funded at a whopping $209 million. Geez, I hope Besson had a back-up plan!

Visually exciting and stunning (who came up with ALL those impressive looking aliens?) we see the International Space Station above Earth in 2020 grow exponentially until, 300 years later, it has become Alpha, a monstrous utopian home to thousands of creatures and civilizations from across the galaxy. Also included in this opening travelogue is the Planet Mül, home to a race of translucent-skinned humanoids, resembling a cross between the Na’vi from Avatar and the Cloners from Star Wars III: Attack of the Clones. Anyway, their planet gets destroyed and boom! We fast-forward to the United Federation of Humans two best government agents in the galaxy… God help us all.

Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is a cock-sure and egotistical 20-something soldier that’s sorta-kinda in love with his partner, Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevinge), the know-it-all brains of the outfit that, really, has better reasons not to stay with a clod like Valerian. Throughout the movie, Valerian is constantly trying to put the moves on Laureline and propose marriage to her, but she wisely refuses, wanting more than Valerian’s smug attitude.

So, the plot. Right. There’s this little blue Mül pearl & weird creature that looks like a cartoon armadillo (called a ‘converter’) that has to be found and brought back to the Federation, while at the same time a sinister Red Zone has popped up in the middle of Alpha that might destroy everything. In charge of the whole military shebang at Alpha is super gung-ho Commander Filitt (Clive Owen), and he’ll stop at nothing to find out what that Red Zone is… but why does he have a personal entourage of lethally armed robots? Hmmm… oh, never mind, it’s probably nothing, right?

After confiscating the ‘converter’ at an multi-inter-dimensional tourist flea market (pretty mind boggling stuff, but cool looking), Valerian and Laureline are on the Red Zone case back home on Alpha and protecting Filitt against, what appears to be, citizens from Mül? After the Mül kidnap Filitt, Valerian and Laureline embark on an elaborate series of adventures to pad out the exhausting 2hr and 17min running time.

There’s Laureline rescuing Valerian (and vice versa), Valerian meeting Bubbles (Rihanna), a shape-shifting pole dancer, a pimp named Jolly (Ethan Hawke), Laureline giving chase with Bob, the submarine pirate (Alain Chabat), gleaming info from three small bat-winged, duck-billed, Ferengi-like creatures, and much more. Snore. Wake me when something actually makes sense. Finally, at the end, we learn the awful truth about the Mül and humans, Filitt and his personal robots, and we get that big, noisy ending you were expecting.

Besson has done some impressive work with Lucy, The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional, and Taken, but Jiminy Christmas! This is one really big dumb, eye-candy knock-out of a movie! The CG alone is startling and worthy of your movie-going $$, but on the other hand, the stupid plot and asinine dialogue will make you want to leave the theater screaming. Such a conundrum! How DeHaan and Delevinge made it through the film without choking on their lame, fan-fiction words is beyond me. The storyline leap-frogs from one idiotic set-up to the next without rhyme or reason, other than to add some new peril and to show-off more CG stuff.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the chemistry between our young heroes isn’t even palpable, as they constantly argue and bicker like bratty fourteen-year-olds. I was secretly hoping for Laureline to ‘accidentally’ shoot Valerian in the face and take over his job. Now THAT would have been a better movie! While I will agree that the outer dressings are remarkable in scope and design, it clearly doesn’t make up for the rest. Enter at you own risk, kiddies!

The Fifth Element (1997)

You want funny, strange, quirky, odd, LOL, with a wild and fantastic plot using science-fiction and fantasy at the same time? Then I’ve got the perfect movie for you! From the crazy mind of writer/director Luc Besson, I give you this terrific oddball of a movie that is pure Saturday morning popcorn with extra butter. I just love it.

Starting with a nutty backstory in 1914, huge metallic alien thingy arrives at an ancient Egyptian temple to collect the only weapon capable of defeating a great evil that appears every 5,000 years. The aliens promise their human contact there, a priest from a secret order, that they will come back with certain element stones in time to stop the great evil when it returns. Okaaaaaaayyyyyy. Now it’s 2263, and that ‘great evil’ has appeared in the form of a giant ball of black fire, and it’s headed for Earth. Those aliens have returned too, carrying the weapon and contacting priest Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm), who informs the President of the Federated Territories (Tommy Lister, jr) about what’s happening.

But there’s evil afoot as the aliens are attacked by the ugly and trigger-happy Mangalores, a race hired by crazy industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman), who’s following orders by “Mister Shadow” to acquire the stones. Only a hand is left of the Fifth Element from the destroyed alien ship and scientists reconstruct the entire body; a powerful humanoid woman who takes the name of Leeloo (Milla Jovovich). Terrified of her unfamiliar surroundings, she runs away, crashing into the flying taxicab of ex-special forces, Major Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis).

Dallas delivers Leeloo to Cornelius and learns about the aliens, the four element stones, and how the Mangalores want them for Zorg. For the safety of the planet, General Munro (Brion James) orders Dallas to travel undercover to the planet Fhloston to meet the opera singer, Plavalaguna (Maiwenn LeBesco) on a floating interstellar luxury cruise yacht; Dallas takes Leeloo with him and the real fun begins. Dallas has to not only find the stones on the ship somewhere, but dodge the bullets and bombs of the Mangalores, AND the over-the-top ramblings of radio host, Ruby Rhod (the hilarious Chris Tucker).

There’s explosions, bullets galore, fights, Ruby Rhod’s screaming and yelling at inappropriate times, and the last-second saving of planet Earth with Leeloo almost dying in the process. This is one exciting and wacky movie combining all the elements of every genre you can think of into one movie, and having a ball doing it. Saving a planet was never this much fun; a grandiose comic book come to life, with outrageous CG effects and never taking itself seriously. And then you have Bruce Willis living it up as Korben Dallas, combining his Moonlighting charm with his Die Hard roughness. Milla is just perfect, but it’s Chris Tucker that easily steals this picture with his totally bonkers portrayal of Ruby Rhod.


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