Ethan Hawke

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Cor. What a title. 

The ability to build worlds within film has advanced an incredible amount, especially since the days of James Cameron’s Avatar. Luc Besson has had his hand in the Valerian pie for a long time, and recently thought that the technology was there for him to create Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Besson worked to adapt the French comic book series for the screen, but the title sticks out like a sore thumb considering the comic series is called Valerian and Laureline. I had a certain sense of apprehension for this as the last Besson film I had the ‘pleasure’ of watching was Lucy, and I absolutely loathed that film. But the trailer managed to lure me in with the visuals and the science-fiction element to the film.

Valerian (yeah, I’m just going to call it that from now on) hooked me from the opening sequence as the space station expands and welcomes other nations on-board. As it expands, alien life begins to join and the station grows exponentially into Alpha. As it reaches critical mass, it is pushed out of Earth’s orbit to travel by itself.

Besson apparently sat on this film for some time, and it’s clear to see why as world building that is undertook in Valerian is exceptional, from the market to the whistle-stop tour of the Alpha station is incredibly vibrant. Unfortunately for Besson and Valerian the enjoyment for the film slowly begins to fade when you look past the pretty visuals in the opening thirty or so minutes.

Generally speaking the scripting was just downright awful. And especially cringe worthy when agent Valerian (Dane DeHaan) was trying to woo? his partner agent Laureline (Cara Delevingne) by saying the most inane things. Some of the lines had me shaking my head in disbelief that they had made the final cut. Dane and Cara themselves were good in the role, but Cara’s character does fall into the standard damsel in distress character although Laureline as a character seems to be better than that.

But I don’t think the scripting was helped by the narrative, as it seemed to be jumping all over the place as Besson tried to mash together the love story between Valerian and Laureline and this mysterious element that they have found themselves pulled into. Often it felt as though it wasn’t sure which direction the film wanted to be pulled in.

The film does stand at over two hours, but unfortunately does feel like it’s over three hours as it slogs its way between the narrative, scripting and the indulgent visuals. I don’t think this could have been helped as Besson took the time to dress the screen in the incredible visuals, which were incredible to watch unfold on the screen.

I did enjoy the pairing of Dane DaHaan and Cara Delevingne as they bounce off each other, and do seem to have an interesting chemistry on-screen. Cara was the better off the two regardless of her damsel in distress characterisation, and Dane plays the cocky, arrogant character to perfection, regardless of the script-vomit that tumbles out of his mouth.

It has to be said though, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets only has one true winner, and that lies in the visuals. Besson builds incredible worlds, from the inter-dimensional market to the Thousand City Planet of Alpha and it’s incredulous atmosphere. I mean water, a fully submerged water section on a space station. Really?

However, between the scripting and the narrative being all over the place it’s not something that makes me want to rush back to see it all over again. Aside from the dazzling visuals and Cara’s performance as Agent Laureline, there is little to enjoy about this film. Even the score pulled me out of the film, by sounding reminiscent of Star Wars. As I try to recount the film, I have come to realise that it is less-than-memorable, with only a few glimpses sticking out, including the marketplace sequence being one of better in the film.

If you find yourself going to see it, see it on the biggest screen possible, but other than that, I wouldn’t rush out to see it, which is a shame as I wanted to like Valerian more.


The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt are the centrepieces of this remake of the 1960s classic. (Which is in turn an Americanised remake of the Akira Kurosawa classic Seven Samurai) Now, I’ve not seen the original The Magnificent Seven, so I have approached this film without any prior knowledge to go off aside from the trailers.

The Magnificent Seven takes place in America in 1879. The small, sleepy town of Rose Creek comes under siege from Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Realising the potential gold mine it is, Bogue decides to lay siege to the town of Rose Creek and tries to buy out the town for a measly sum.

Now, Bogue isn’t armed with a few exceptional shooters, no. It’s more of a small army that out populates the town. Bogue sets his terms for Rose Creek and in a scuffle some townspeople are shot, including Emma Cullen’s (Haley Bennett) husband, Matthew. (Matt Bomer)


You can see where this is going right?

Although the film does have the all-star casting and excellent backdrops, majority of the film is foreseeable for what will happen next. Emma Cullen meets Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington) and enlists his help to take back Rose Creek. Much of the next twenty to thirty minutes of the film is Denzel enlisting other well-known gunslingers of the West including Goodnight Robicheux (Ethan Hawke), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and a wanted Mexican bandit Vasquez. (Manuel Garcia-Ruflo)

The titular ‘Magnificent Seven’ is completed by Chris Pratt’s Faraday, Billy Rock (Byung-hun Lee) and the Native American Comanche warrior Red Harvest. (Martin Sensmeier) They arrive at Rose Creek to be met with resistance from Bogue’s men. A quick battle ensues where Bogue’s men are killed rather skilfully.


This film is enjoyable for what’s on screen, and my personal enjoyment ends there. Whilst the characters are fun and are seemingly having fun on screen, I didn’t care for their outcomes. Peter Sarsgaard’s Bogue exhibits the most captivating performance, as he is painted as a corrupt industrialist man, but remains calm and collected during the sieges of Rose Creek.

As I mentioned above, the story offers little or no twists and turns but chooses to focus on the large-scale fight sequences, which are very entertaining in the big-screen surrounding. Antoine Fuqua chose to include a light-hearted effort to counter the action-heavy sequences through Chris Pratt’s not-too-serious Faraday. Fantastically Fuqua didn’t overuse this method and created the perfect balance.


The Magnificent Seven is a good film, if you’re after a pretty backdrop and enjoyable action sequences. But with the story and the character (aside from Bogue) I found that it let the film down on a whole. They are two sides to the coin though, as Fuqua seems to be a master at creating tense scenes, which he did twice in this film quite superbly. In between these tense scenes and the fights the film does tend to drag and unfortunately it seems longer than the 130-minute runtime.

In the grand scheme of things, this film is enjoyable, it just doesn’t pull its weight when compared with this months earlier releases like Hunt for the Wilderpeople or Kubo and the Two Strings. The story takes on a darker role late on the finale, but this is too late to save the film, but this dark change in pace is still expected. The characters are an enjoyable ragtag bunch who are having fun on screen, but offer nothing in terms of caring for them. This film is just very, middle of the road and straight shooting. But that’s fine because it makes for an entertaining viewing, just not as good as films released earlier this year.