Friday, July 21, 2017

Movie Review: Valerian and the City of A Thousand Yawns

This is not a negative blog. I try to report only on positive things. But once in a while, things are so frustrating, I want to comment.

I almost fell asleep a couple times during Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I haven’t been this hyped up by the previews for a movie and then so disappointed at the reality of it in fifteen years. The main problem (and this is so ironic after attending a writers workshop yesterday) is that I couldn’t view Valerian as a sincere person. He was not a character I could sympathize with. And besides, Dane DeHaan sounds like a nasally version of Keanu Reeves.

Cara Delevingne as Laureline is even worse. She is a one-note cold fish towards Valerian throughout.

Yes, there are lavish special effects in Valerian. But it’s mostly a matter of telling, not showing. Here we are told there are some exotic aquatic aliens. There we are told there are exotic programming aliens. And that is it. They play no role in the story. The movie features elaborate CGI sets, but mostly they are rushed by. 

Click below to read the spoilers. 


The first part of Valerian is the most successful, but also offensive. It is a mini-adventure, like how the Roger Moore James Bond movies would start out, giving us a taste of what the main character(s) could do, and what kind of world this was. It’s in a desert, and all of the support team for Valerian and Laureline get wiped out defending them. Those two don’t get disturbed by it or even report it.

This would be like showing a couple of CIA agents going into Iraq or Afghanistan, and all of the Army soldiers or Marines supporting them get wiped out saving their lives, and the CIA agents don’t even shrug about it. I could not bring myself to care about these two characters.

That first part of the movie was the most fleshed-out in showing us how things worked and how agents in the field need support. The rest of it was dull zipping through special effects.

What made the movie stupid was that either the screenwriter or the famed director Luc Besson didn’t understand the basics of physical reality. In one extended pursuit scene, Valerian is bursting through walls as if they were made of thin cardboard. He is running/swimming through the aquatic habitat, then he bursts through into the habitat of the programmers. Um, wouldn’t the water from the aquatic habitat immediately cascade into the programming habitat, perhaps killing the aquatic aliens and ruining the electronic work of the programmers? No such flow of water follows him.

The same sort of thing happens later in the chase, when Valerian runs through an environment that had people walking around, then bursts through a hatch into space. Um, wouldn’t the air rush out? Wouldn’t the people in that habitat be killed? Overall, the makers of this movie don’t seem to understand that space is a vacuum. It is extremely frustrating to encounter people like that.

As one science fiction writer complained, these movies spend millions of dollars on special effects, but not one dime on writing.

Did this sound harsh? Well, they wasted two hours of my life instead of delivering the ultra-cool movie I was promised. That’s why. 

1 comment:

Damyanti said...

Thanks for this review, Mark. Was planning to book tix for this movie, but I'll now only watch it on Netflix!


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