tisdag 29 augusti 2017

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

I will never forget the year of 1994. This was the year when the British acid jazz band Jamiroquai released their classic second album The Return Of The Space Cowboy, that became a big part of my teenage years. This was also the year when American band Rollins Band released their greatest album ever, simply called Weight. I also remember this year when Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. Of course we could probably mention some other very important things that happened this year. But i would like to take this moment, to talk about a film that changed my life, that first came out in the year 1994. It was the film Léon: The Professional, from french director Luc Besson. A story about a lonesome hitman called Léon Montana, who saves a young innocent girl Mathilda ( Natalie Portman ) from being murdered by Norman Stansfield ( Gary Oldman ) and his corrupt DEA Agents. The film is a wonderful story, that really show how important it is to have hope in life. The acting is just completely brilliant, and Gary Oldman may do his best performance of his acting career in this film. Director Luc Besson really showed the world with this film, that he have created a masterpiece. And i still see this film, as the best film he have ever done so far. Director Luc Besson have of course directed some other classics, such as Subway and Nikita, and i still think he have managed to deliver some solid film within more recent years. Let´s look back on one of the classic films that director Luc Besson have made over the years. Remember the 90´s science fiction classic The Fifht Element with Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman and Bruce Willis ? I actually enjoyed this film, for being different, and offering a lot of fun action scenes. I remember that critics were very divided about the film, but the fans clearly enjoyed themselves. The Fifth Element had both great characters, and a very futuristic look that helped the film look so cool. In some ways, i think that The Fifth Element was a much better science fiction film, than the cheesy epic action film Armageddon, released a year after Besson´s film. If you have not seen The Fifth Element yet, pick up the blu ray and experience a magical moment in cinema history. Director Luc Besson did not really do any science fiction films after this one, unless you count in some science fiction influences in his film Lucy with Scarlett Johansson. Late last year i started hearing about that Besson would make a film based on the french science fiction comic series Valérian and Laureline. This did make me curious, just to see what he would do with this material. The official trailer looked fun, so of course i was excited to experience Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets in cinema. Is legendary director Luc Besson back on top, or is this film one of his failures in his long career ?

In the 28th century, the former International Space Station has become " Alpha ", a city of millions of creatures live together in harmony, where they exchange their knowledge and cultures. The humans have a special police division, to preserve peace through the universe, including Major Valerian ( Dane DeHaan ) and Sergeant Laureline ( Cara Delevigne ). In a dream of Valerian, he dream of a low-tech humanoid race lives peacefully. These humanoids collect pearls, that contains enormous amounts of energy, and use small animals to replicate them. Suddenly, wreckage comes diving from the sky, as one enormous ship crashes into the planet, triggering an apocalypse. Only a number of humanoids manage to survive, while their princess is one of the victims. Valerian wakes up. He learns that this dream, is telling him to get a " Mul Converter ", the animal that can replicate pearls. But there is only one left in the universe, and it is located at a black market dealer. Valerian travel to the virtual market called " Big Market ", to get the Mul Converter. Valerian and Laureline recover the converter, and also steals one of the pearls. They return back to Alpha, where their superior frosty Commander Filitt ( Clive Owen ) inform them that the center of the station have been infected by an unknown force. Valerian and Laureline is ordered to protect their Commander, as he ask them for the converter, but Valerian tells Laureline to hold onto the converter. Suddenly, humanoids attack Space Station Alpha, and kidnap Commander Filitt. At first Valerian and Laureline go after to save their Commander, but is there a reason to why Commander Fillit was kidnapped ? Is there something he have kept secret ?

Knowing that it is 20 years ago, since Luc Besson released his classic science fiction film The Fifth Element, you instantly hope that Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets would be a future classic. Unfortunately, we do have some issues to talk about this film. I could understand why Luc Besson wanted to take on this project, since this have been in his mind for a long time. I have not read the french comics Valérian And Laureline, but i understand that the source material is very appreciated by fans. Since i can´t compare the ground material, to this film adaptation, i don´t know if director Luc Besson have managed to capture the world really well, or if he have failed. I choose to look at this film for what this is, a big budget science fiction action opera. There are parts of the film, where i can tell that Luc Besson have tried to make this film an epic adventure. I think one of the problems for me, is that the film have so many characters, that you really don´t care about many of them. Look at one of the main characters, Major Valerian, played by actor Dane DeHaan. You can´t really feel connected to him, as much as you would want to. I don´t think he is a bad actor, i am just not sure if he was the right choice for this character. Actor Cara Delevigne as the tough Sergeant Laureline is one of the few characters that actually work. Oh, let´s not forget to mention Ethan Hawke, in a small role as the crazy Jolly The Pimp. He is actually a great choice as this character. Really nice to see legendary actor Rutger Hauer in a small role as the President of the World State Federation ( he should have been included more into this film ). A part from these ones, we don´t have many more to mention. The CGI does look great, especially in 3D, and there are a couple of action scenes where you can sense that Luc Besson wanted to make this an epic film. But no matter how much action we get in some scenes, the characters can´t save this film. If only Besson could have developed the characters, giving them much more depth, than this could have been a good film. I am not sure if the film follow the comic books correctly, but somehow it feels like this film is rushed, to get as much details as possible from the ground material. I could be wrong, but that´s the way i feel. On the positive side we do have some beautiful scenes, where we meet very odd creatures and majestic landscapes. I do like some of the scenes with the low-tech humanoids, when they fish for pearls. If the film could have focused more on the story behind these humanoids, i do think we could have had something more solid to enjoy. Director Luc Besson is not a bad director, we know he can make really good films ( and bad ones as well of course ). Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets is not a disaster, but with such a large world that he tries to offer with this film, we only get to experience a part of it. You get a sense that there is a story worth telling here, only if it could have been made correctly. If you are a big Luc Besson fan, you might want to see the film after all, just to get your own opinion. I had pretty high expectations for this film, and i am disappointed. If we ever get to see a sequel, i hope that Luc Besson can adjust some problems, and i can actually look forward to see a future development.

Rating: DD

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