Reviews Have Begun To Drop For Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

Reviews have begun to drop for Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and while it’s early days yet, let’s just say they haven’t been charitable.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy was particularly tough on Besson’s latest effort, saying, ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets really is that bad, bad enough you don’t know for longest time that Valerian is one of the lead characters and not a planet or a spaceship.’

Ouch.

Steve Pond  of The Wrap was slightly more charitable, saying ‘(Luc) Besson takes all that fun and color, along with a wild array of fantastic creatures, and deploys (them) in service of a big, dopey story that remains resolutely uninvolving and quite often annoying.’

Now, as I said earlier, it’s early days yet and a few mediocre reviews aren’t likely enough to torpedo Valerian’s chances at the domestic box office (after all, it’s taken five movies before many moviegoers in the United States noticed that the Transformers movies are really, really bad).

Though I get the feeling at that we’re not going to see Spider-Man: Homecoming-type box office when the movie goes into wide release.

Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets – ‘Space Is MAGIC’ – Trailer

Luc Besson is nothing if not ambitious and Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets is his most ambitious feature yet, but I am concerned.

The movie, based on a French comic book written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières, is likely unfamiliar to most Americans, which is likely why the director spends quite a bit of time in the trailer telling the viewer what it is they’re going to see, and what it’s  based on.

If I were promoting the movie in the United States I’d  bypass the origins of the characters–which domestic audiences are likely unaware –and instead concentrate on two things:

  • Spectacle

Valerian appears to be visually spectacular, as if Besson took the visual esthetic of The Fifth Element and combined it with Star Wars and Avatar.  Movies are all about diversion and this is an aspect that–in promotional materials–needs to be played up (it goes without saying that he movie itself will hopefully have a story that matches the visuals) even more than it is in this trailer.

Promise a visual experience like no other.  And sure, it’s likely not to be the case –I have seen few, if any, movies to actually live up to such hype–but it doesn’t stop movies from saying it, so Valerian might as well do the same.

  • Competition

Valerian cost somewhere between $170-200 million dollars to produce and while I expect it will perform strongest in Europe (where familiarity with the source material is likely greater) I wouldn’t discount it doing well in most international markets.

How well it does domestically depends upon when it is released, and perhaps more importantly, what it is released against.   It it performs (domestically) like Universal’s The Mummy, which had Wonder Woman to content with, then it had better do as well as that movie did internationally (despite not starring an actor with the international pull of a Tom Cruise) or there might be troubles for EuropaCorp (Besson’s production company, though the movie is released domestically via STX.).

Though if Valerian has a month or so alone (and there’s no Spider-Man: Homecoming waiting in ambush) competing with smaller releases it’s likely to do just fine.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Final Trailer

The trailer for Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is almost impossibly gorgeous, but seeing that Besson’s was also the director of The Fifth Element that was never an aspect of his filmmaking I was concerned about.

Never having read the comic the movie is based upon, I will just have Besson’s writing to guide me through the movie, which concerns me somewhat.

It’s not that Besson is a terrible writer, it’s that he doesn’t typically bring the gravitas, or in some instances, the originality a story might require.

And then there’re the two leads. James DeHaan is a good actor, though he looks a bit ‘young’ in the trailer (this may have more to do with DeHaan being a relatively slight person in general, but nothing about his antics in the trailers inspires confidence to me).  Then there’s the seemingly perpetual scowl of disapproval worn by Cara Delevingne in EVERY trailer for the movie.

Maybe they have a Han Solo/Princess Leia–thing going on, or that what we’re seeing in the trailers reflects exactly the relationship between both characters in the comic, but if that’s the case then we’re in for a particularly unpleasant ride, because it’s really unappealing.

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets – Teaser Trailer

The trailer for “Luc Besson‘s Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets dropped earlier today, and visually speaking, it’s gorgeous.

Then again, Besson is the guy that directed The Fifth Element–another visually dazzling sci-fi epic–so that’s not really a surprise. 


The only fly in the ointment (or spanner in the works or pig in the trough–I made that last one up) is that Besson isn’t a particularly strong–or original, in some instances–writer. 

And he’s apparently a huge fan of John Carpenter because while Besson was successfully sued for Lockout, his 2004 adventure movie DistrictB13 is disconcertingly similar to another movie by John Carpenter, Escape From New York

Hopefully Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets will follow in the footsteps of the French comic, written by  Pierre Christin and drawn by Jean-Claude Mézières, that inspired it and not any of John Carpenter’s work.  

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets – Poster

screenshot-2016-10-06-10-50-39

Lucy Besson, while a visually sumptuous director, is not a terribly original writer–which may have a little to do with him settling with John Carpenter over his 2012 movie Lockout, which was essentially Escape From New York aboard a space station.

Lucy, directed by Besson in 2014, fared particularly well financially, though many considered the story (about a woman, played by Scarlett Johansson, who though a mysterious drug gains the ability to unlock the unused potential of the human mind and gain god-like powers) as particularly dopey.

He’s back in 2017 with Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets–a title that on its face doesn’t make sense–that’s based on a French comic series by Jean-Claude Méziéres.

I hope it does well mainly because many European comics don’t get nearly the recognition here that they do there, and it would be good for people to expand their knowledge of such things beyond what we see presented by Marvel Studios and DC Films.

Why Marvel Needs To Take Its Time Jumping On The Female Superhero Movie Bandwagon

I have written on women superheroes in movies in the past, and thought that it was a topic worth revisiting, especially since some have decided that Marvel Studios somehow has a duty to make a feature with a female lead.

Which is nonsense, but don’t get me wrong, inclusiveness is a great thing. All of us need to be able to see ourselves in the various superhero universes out there because they serve to not only inspire us, but as a reminder that reminder that we’re part of something greater than ourselves.

But there’s one problem with that thesis: Hollywood is driven not by altruism, but by money. If superhero films featuring women were successful, I guarantee you that every studio would be making them.

And it’s not rocket science as to why such films aren’t more common, which is because they have, so far, been failures at the box office.

For a prime example why Marvel should take their time, let’s look to 2004, when Warner Bros released Catwoman.  It was a failure, earning $80 million on a $100 million budget. And truth be told that was $80 million more than the movie deserved (Though Halle Berry was so classy that she actually attended the 2005 Golden Raspberry Awards–also known as “The Razzies“–where Catwoman “won” in the Worse Picture category).

And the thing is, I don’t blame Pitof, who directed, or Berry’s performance in the title role (though the ‘tuna’ scene was a bit obvious and silly).

Heck, I don’t even blame Theresa RebeckMichael Ferris or John Brancato, who wrote it.

I blame whichever executives at Warner Bros who green-lit the project because alarm bells should have immediately gone off when it was learned that the main character, Patience Phillips (Berry) was ‘Catwoman’ in name only.  Her origins had very little to do with the comics that inspired her creation.  Now, I understand that executives may have wanted to go in a different direction after Catwoman made an appearance in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns–who portrayed the character as a bit too damaged–but to go so totally in the opposite direction tonally was a bit of an over-correction.

As if the Titanic, in a effort to miss a a small sheet of ice, ran smack-dab into the iceberg.

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‘Brick Mansions’ Trailer

When I heard that Paul Walker had died earlier this year, I was surprised; I am not quite sure why I was, in hindsight.  People die all the time, and while large amounts of money can prolong life, no one has yet found a way to extend it appreciably.

“Brick Mansions” is, I believe, the last film Walker worked on before the auto accident.

I wish it were something else because as far as I can tell, ‘Mansions’ looks like Luc Besson repeating himself.  If the trailer is at all accurate, it plays like a retread of “District 13” which was itself a Francophile version of John Carpenter’s “Escape From New York,” with parkour.