film

Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Written and directed by Luc Besson, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is an ambitious adaption of the French science fiction comic series “Valerian and Laureline”. Cited as one of the many inspirations for “Star Wars”, “Valerian and Laureline” adds another dimension to the complexity of adventuring through space-they often police the timeline as well. However here in this adaption we only get traditional sci-fi flair. Which in itself is fine, a script could easily get over complicated by adding time travel in the mix. Anyways, this film almost entirely takes place in Alpha, a gigantic space station initially built by humans then added onto over time by the inclusion of other alien species tech and starship capabilities. Fast forward roughly five hundred years into our future and you have a massive sprawling structure floating through space. Alpha contains each species contributions to this effort and because of this it contains many different kinds of environments and species thriving there.

That is what is best about this movie adaption, the spectacle of it all. The world that Valerian and Laureline live in and move through is fascinating, and the pace at which we are introduced and sped through it all is akin to a stellar theme park ride. However if you’re not the kind to be wowed at visually creative sci-fi ideas, costumes, alien designs etc etc-you may not find much to enjoy here. While I personally enjoyed this film for the all the visual treats, there is not much there when it comes to the characters or plot.

Let’s get to the elephant in the room; Dane DeHaan is a good actor, I’ve seen him perform quite competently in other films, but he is grossly miscast as Valerian-the atypical classical hero that gallivants the universe conquering evil while also adding a litany of names upon his wall of sexual conquests. Dane, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you. Maybe in five or ten years once he grows out of his wiry build, maybe then-but not now. Cara Delevingne fairs better, she is more believable in her performance and she has vastly improved from her last role in the slogfest that was “Suicide Squad”. However, there is simply no chemistry between Laureline and Valerian. Maybe there is a different relationship between the two in the comics, but here the nonexistent chemistry is hard to ignore as the film wants you to believe in the love these two characters share, even while both of them vie for the role of charming rogue.

In the end this was a fairly enjoyable, if a bit predictable, sci-fi romp even amidst the visible issues at hand. It’s a solid film that may not receive sequels- but I hope it does, there’s room to improve so I would welcome another effort.

Final Score: Three Doghan Daguis

 

film

Review: The Magnificent Seven or “Welcome back Cowboy”

This autumn’s western “The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of the 1960 title of the same name, which just so happens to be a reimagining of Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” in 1954. Whew, that’s a lot to live up to. So, does our modern reimagining of this story live up to the lofty heights of its predecessors? Not quite, but it is a damn fun western movie in a time when the genre is receding out of the collective memory.

This film has an overall basic plot that allows the style choices of the creative team, and the actors, to shine through. Antoine Fuqua knew this and wisely focused on the characters and action sequences in play. Don’t get me wrong, this film won’t be an award winner by any means, but that doesn’t matter here, what matters in my opinion is that the film is competently made and good escapist fun. The movie succeeds in those merits in spades. We don’t get an even amount of focus on all of the seven titular characters, but this is expected in a one off title with such a large main cast. Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt get the most screentime, with Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio capturing enough character moments spread throughout while Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier get introductions and solid action sequences, but the least amount of character development, but enough is done with them to earn them merit within the gunslinger tale.

The story is that of a small valley town out west overtaken by a mining mogul with violent tendencies. After the town is met with an ultimatum with grisly implications from Bartholomew Bogue one freshly widowed woman, Haley Bennett’s Emma Cullen, rounds up a gang of skilled fighters to help defend the town from the mogul’s wrath. From there the film follows the gathering of the seven titular warriors and the build up to the final showdown between Bogue’s army and the seven, with help from the townsfolk and freed miners. The final showdown is worth the buildup with excellently directed and shot cinematography that gives you the action satisfaction, and justice, that the film initiates for the audience from the beginning. As a plus the film’s score does a lot to encourage the emotions required of the story throughtout, truly great stuff as this was the final score partially created by Oscar Winner James Horner. If you want great escapist fun at the movie theater, you’ll find it within The Magnificent Seven.

Final Score: 3.5/5