Spoiler Review on “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

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There are a lot of mixed reviews for Luc Besson’s latest film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and it is warranted. The movie does a good job at setting up a visual of a bright world with complex creatures and concepts. Alpha, the city of a thousand planets (as the movie itself is titled), shows this city-like world filled with all kinds of aliens and humans alike. The film explains how this city works and what keeps it functioning. The way the imagery of this place sets things up, the audience is given a unique take on a futuristic world in space. It also details the way that humans and aliens together form an alliance for trade and militaristic purposes.

These concepts all seem to work during the first thirty minutes of the film. However, after the opening sequence, the film starts to get muddled with subplots and distractions from the main story. Luc Besson’s goal is clearly to share a world that he loves (which is based on the graphic novel, Valerian and Laureline). The problem is he includes all these little moments that distract from the overall story and it makes the plot confusing as well as contradictory.  An example of this is seen around the moment where Bubble (played by Rihanna) appears. The purpose of this scene was to get Valerian to be disguised so he can infiltrate an alien fortress that was holding Laureline. In the scene prior to this one, Valerian makes it clear he does not want to create a diplomatic incident for The Human Federation on Alpha and the rest of the vaguely described inner space goverment. However, while he goes into the fortress under disguise (thanks to Bubble’s ability to make him look like one of the big aliens), Laureline and him both create an incident anyway that gets several aliens killed. But, nevermind about this because Valerian saves Laureline and they narrowly escape.

Then, the film goes on to show us Valerian and Laureline saving another species of alien, who became refugees when Clive Owen’s character blew up their planet. Is that a spoiler? Yes, but the movie tells the audience in the first act, then has the characters be surprised at the end anyway. By the way, the aliens that Valerian and Laureline killed early in the film were way uglier than the pretty ones they decide to save later on. Does that mean it is okay to pick and choose which aliens to save? Just as long as they are not ugly aliens, I guess? It is confusing what the movie is trying to say between those two sequences.

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Aside from the contradictions in the story, there was another aspect of the movie that is bothersome. It was the fact that so many parts of the film seemed like a repeat of Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element (which came out in 1997). There is nothing wrong with filmmakers rehashing ideas that they themselves have created. However, there were moments in Valerian that became predictable simply because it was already done in The Fifth Element. One of those sequences being Bubble’s death. This scene echoed the one in The Fifth Element, where a blue diva alien dies tragically for the greater good. The blue alien death in the 1997 film pays off though because it gives the heroes the thing they needed most in order to save the day. However, this did not pay off nearly as well for Valerian, and it just creates a noisy, fast paced conclusion to the story.

My last point about this movie’s substandard performance goes to the casting choices. The casting of Dane Dahaan and Cara Delevingne as the two leading roles was okay. Their performances were decent, however, they lacked the chemistry that would have been needed in order to pull off a successful romance that the film was clearly trying to force. Not only that, Laureline’s character (portrayed by Delevingne) seemed a bit robotic and I do not blame the actor for this at all. The writing for Laureline was ridged and the movie did not give her much of a role as a female. Yes, she had her action bits, but the character did not seem interested in Valerian at all. Though, at the end she suddenly is okay with marrying him. It seemed like Valerian kept forcing her to answer his proposal for marriage and it was rather uncomfortable. In addition, there were several moments where Valerian would explain things to her, despite her clear knowledge. Those moments made it hard to like Valerian, but it also made me wish the film could just focus on Laureline. I liked her far more and would have preferred to see her be a bit more independent, or at least resemble how a woman actually would feel and react.

Despite everything I did not like about this film, I would like to end this review by pointing out the positives. First, the visuals were quite unique and I was entertained by the creature designs. The action sequences were fun to watch and the moments with Bubble were endearing. This world that Luc Besson was trying to illustrate is vibrant and fascinating. I wanted to learn more about it and I think that says something, despite how I felt about the film’s overall story.

Altogether, with everything in mind, the score I give this movie is a 6/10; a D-. That is rather high considering the plot issues. Most of that score is going to the visuals and theatrical experience.

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2017: A Great Year for Super Heroes, so far.

It has been several years since the super hero movie genre has taken its hold over audiences and box offices world wide. There have been ups and downs, but it seems like this year has had mostly ups. Starting with Fox’s Logan and continuing to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the super hero movies have already had a great start. Now, with DC’s Wonder Woman being released world wide, the greatness continues. Aside from the money these films have made, all three of these movies have shown another side to the super hero genre that has been in desperate need for something fresh and new.

Starting with Logan, we see a vulnerable and old aged Wolverine. Despite his plans, he is given a quest to help Laura (X-23) get to North Dakota so she can meet with others like her. Even with his objections, Logan does it and brings Xavier along.

In the meantime, they are being hunted by Donald Pierce and a bunch of Reavers. The story, at its core, is rather simple. Logan has to get from point A to point B, but that journey is powerful. He gets to experience what it is like to have a family. He even gets to sit down with one and have a meal.

The emotions in this film are so raw and heartbreaking that it becomes memorable for its fantastic storytelling. All the symbolisms and the action lead to a climax that eventually leads to a fulfilling end. The acting is superb. The setup is clear. And, the movie delivers a rated R take on a beloved superhero’s journey.

Next, there is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This film, although a sequel, found a way to be different from the first Guardians of the Galaxy and it shows in the way the characters interact with each other. In the first film, they all barely know each other so it is the goal of the film to unite the team.

For the sequel, the team is united, but now the focus shifts to familial themes. Considering Starlord’s background, he has a bit of an issue with connecting with others until he finally gets to meet Ego, his father. It is in the events that follow that allows Starlord to see the difference between the man that helped create him and the man who was there to raise him.

Ultimately, the team reunites and becomes stronger than ever. The family theme in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 resonates and shows that sequels can be fun and original.

Then, finally, there is Wonder Woman. This movie showed that a female leading superhero film can be successful at the box office and be a rather decent film. Even though it is an origin story, it takes place in the World War 1 era so it removes itself from the current DCEU timeline. This allows the movie to create a contained story about Diana and how she became the hero that she is now.

The movie begins with her living with her mother, Hippolyta, on the island Themyscira. As the events in the film unfold, Diana journeys with Steve Trevor to modern day Europe so she can help end the World War.

As a result, she is able to become the hero that is known to fight for love and justice. The plot is rather simple in many ways, but it gets the job done. It tells a straightforward story, while also giving a hero to millions of girls and women around the globe.

Wonder Woman also showed the box office that both men and women alike will go see a movie about a female superhero as the main focus of the story. With a character as beloved and iconic as Wonder Woman, it is great to see this film’s success as it becomes one of the most successful movies in the summer of 2017.

With these three movies in mind, it is refreshing to see the super hero genre alive and well. It is also splendid to see them evolving into emotionally driven and character-focused stories that inspire millions. Hopefully, this trend continues as Spiderman: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnorak, and Justice League come out later this year.

Today’s Post is Filler

Sorry, I didn’t get around to writing a whole lot today. I wanted to get to it, but my mind needed a bit of a break.

When that happens, I try to settle in and watch something that I find enjoyable. Today, I continued on with the current season of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.  I absolutely adore this show. The characters are wonderful. Of course, I love seeing Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin together as well as Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston.

Anyway, I always find it to be a good idea to watch a narrative that explores characters at their best and at their worst. Yesterday, I was considering conflict and the thought kept blooming in my mind as I watched this show.

Sometimes, it is nice to take a moment to read or watch something that could later inform the way I write. Maybe, I’ll consider the ways in which the characters interact and create drama between themselves. Besides, no matter what kind of work I am doing, the characters are still people. Regardless of genre, it is important for me to keep them and their struggles human.

Storytelling 101: Conflicts

So, I am thinking about trying my hand at writing some stories or even continue some projects I had tucked away for some time. Then, my contemplation spiraled into considering narrative structure, especially conflict.

Then, I remembered that I had recently been in a discussion with someone about this topic and we used an example from Marvel’s Netflix series Jessica Jones.

The conversation was about what made that series work. For me, what I enjoyed about the show was the small scale stakes. In other words, the world wasn’t in trouble in this series. The protagonist’s problems were mostly her own and the villain was more of a danger to her rather than the entire human population.

This example made me think about how important it is for stories to feel relatable, but it is equally important to realize that the size and scale of a conflict can influence relatability. It isn’t to say that big apocalyptic stories are bad. What I am trying to get at is this idea that smaller, internal conflicts can also make a story appealing.

That said, I contemplated this subject for quite some time since one of my projects deals with the inner conflicts of a character while also dealing with a big apocalyptic problem. Again, neither of these are wrong, but I really love being able to delve deep inside a character’s mind.  Hopefully, this will result in me creating more ideas for characters and conflicts for future stories.