Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.
So, here is what I watched this past week:
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Luc Besson is nothing if not imaginative. Although his previous film, Lucy, was predicated on a long-disproven scientific fallacy, his The Fifth Element was a masterful use of form to create a unique universe populated with fascinating characters and events. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is almost a return to form for Besson.
Set more than half a century from the present, the Earth-orbiting International Space Station has grown and expanded giving the myriad races of the galaxy a place to unite and live peacefully, allowing governments to coordinate freely and share scientific advancement. Alpha, nicknamed the City of a Thousand Planets, has been invaded by a mysterious force that has worried the Earthly government. Agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) have been sent on a mission to bring back the last Mül converter in existence, a creature that can eat and then slough off duplicates of whatever it consumed. The creature, from a long-ago destroyed planet provides the key clue to a massive secret that might unravel the space station.
DeHaan and Delevingne are adequate for the film, though they lack the charm of prior Besson stars like Bruce Willis and Scarlett Johansson. They are fitting as a bickering partners. Clive Owen is over-the-top as the commander, and Rihanna and Ethan Hawke are fine in their cameo roles. What sets the film apart is not its run-of-the-mill script, but the way this universe has been created. Besson’s brilliant imagination has concocted a most magical universe, one that is, admittedly, adapted from a prominent graphic novel. That fact shouldn’t dismiss the gorgeous settings, aliens, and costumes that have been boldly crafted for the film.
This is a movie where visual splendor is more important than narrative heft. The plot is fairly straight forward, but unfolds well, giving the audience hints along the way, but keeping the bulk of the revelations for the final act. That the film runs nearly two-and-a-half hours gives the viewer more to look at, but stretches the premise thinner than it needs to be. Tossing in the hackneyed love story makes the film feel like cheap male fantasy rather than comprehensive character study. Delevingne isn’t as narrowly-drawn as Leeloo is in The Fifth Element, but that kind of growth, twenty years removed, is entirely inadequate.