Thursday, July 20, 2017

Such imagination! Luc Besson's VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS arrives

For those of us who've loved Luc Besson's earlier work -- La Femme Nikita, The ProfessionalThe Fifth Element and Lucy -- the chance to see this filmmaker bounce back with another imaginative gem is too good to pass up. Bounce he does, and then some. His new VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is a delightful, if a little too lengthy, adventure that puts the leaden and repetitive garbage of the Star Wars franchise to utter shame. It's ever so light on its feet, full of amazing visual effects and wonderfully weird creatures, even as it leads us into and through a hugely involved narrative so easily and richly that we follow along, lapping it up like the happy puppies we moviegoers remain when confronted with a space-travel/kids-adventure movie this clever and enchanting.

M. Besson (shown at left), bless his naughty little heart, also has some fun for the more sophisticated adults on hand. Take his sequence featuring Ethan Hawke as a space-age pimp, and Rhianna (shown below) as his most special "girl." Here, the latter shape shifts into just about every good-old-fashioned heterosexual male fantasy -- from school-girl to nurse to bondage queen and lots more -- and yet the movie remains so good-natured and welcoming that it never comes near betraying its deserved PG rating. (The violence, too, is distanced and quick; no wallowing in blood and gore here.)

And if the movie's plot is the usual piffle, its theme -- protecting all species and living in harmony (that's what the titular "City of Thousand Planets" is all about) -- is always worth considering.

The leading actors -- Dane De Haan and Cara Delavigne (above) - are just fine as sparring partners and would-be lovers, while Clive Owen (below) makes a perfectly nasty, irredeemable villain.

But it's the vast and amazing array of those other "species" that makes the movie so much fun. As adapted by Besson (from the French comic book by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières), the screenplay introduces each of these bizarre wonders and then spends just enough time with them so that we understand what they're about and what they need to accomplish -- before moving on to the next delight.

This makes the movie bounce along with surprising energy and incident, and just at that moment prior to our saying, OK enough, we're already on to another bit of wonderment. There are so many of these oddball creations that I'll just mention a couple here: the greedy, talkative trio of know-it-alls (above) who land our hero and heroine in and out of trouble, and the aggressive, non-stop alien "attack dog" (below) who gives our twosome quite the clever chase.

Especially lovely is the planet and its inhabitants (two photos below) who set the movie in motion and help conclude it in the kind of feel-good fashion that will please the kids, while providing the lovely beach (shown at bottom) where our twosome may someday honeymoon, if they're lucky.

Interestingly enough, neither Valerian nor his Laureline are anything approaching super-heroes. They are simply very good at what they do, while making the best use of the current technology at hand.

Consequently, I fear, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is simply too smart and too creative for our current dumbed-down audiences (and critics, too), not to mention our cretinous Trump followers who will demand much more violence and hatred than is on display here. (Besson's film is clearly pro-immigration.) So the movie may come and go without making much of a splash now. But like so much of M. Besson's work, it will linger to find an increasingly appreciative audience over time.

From STX Entertainment and running 2 hours and 17 minutes, the movie opens just about everywhere tomorrow, Friday, July 21. To see about a location near you and/or tickets for same, simply click here.

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