Luc Besson

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.

Lucy (2014)

In theory and premise, this film was set to be stunner on the box office. In practice the feelings didn’t transpire to what I had hoped would happen. Within circles, this film seemed to be quite anticipated film of 2014 with the cast of Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman being directed by Luc Besson. Lucy can draw comparisons on Limitless with drugs expanding the minds capacity, however, whilst the concept of both of these films is brilliant, in practice Limitless was less so. Will Lucy fare better?

No.

Scarlett being cast as Lucy, at first a woman in Taiwan, partying and partly studying (As she mentions about an exam on Monday). Her boyfriend, tricks her into taking a briefcase to Mr. Jang (Min-Sik Choi) full of CPH4, a new synthetic drug. Interestingly here though, Besson integrated a cheetah stalking it’s prey and cast it in such a way, Lucy becomes the gazelle and is capped off when the gazelle is caught, which coincides with Lucy is being taken by Mr. Jang’s henchman.

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Morgan Freeman as Professor Norman, a specialist in the human brain, is then seen discussing the humans use of 10% of cerebral capacity, and then what happens when humans use 20% onwards. Lucy on the other hand is shown the contents of the briefcase and has one of the four CPH4 bags in inserted into her abdomen, along with three other men, who are then forced to fly to one of four European destinations. En route, however, Lucy is kidnapped (I assume as it’s not made clear) and kicked in her abdomen releasing the drug into her system. She then goes all exorcist on screen as the drug encapsulates her body and immediately increasing her brain’s capacity.

Unfortunately, as for the rest of the film, this is where it becomes boring with the action scenes few and far between. Luc Besson’s use of the cheetah and gazelle was a great and interesting effect, however the over saturation of the effect becomes annoying as the nature around the Earth becomes commonplace in the movie as does Lucy takes her cerebral capacity to new heights. And Scarlett Johansson’s performance is different to what we see, it’s nothing mesmerising, I thought anyway. The emotionless, terrifyingly efficient Lucy is different, a world away from Johansson as Charlotte, Barbara and Sarah Jordan.

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Morgan Freeman, I thought, was there for name purposes. A voice to go with the character. His character is not integral to the storyline, just a man to pass on information about the human brain. However, as Lucy takes control of her brain and the movie, she channels all the information about life and existence, the story becomes about time. The time Lucy reaching 100% brain capacity, that time is the true measurement of life, not numbers. It’s all very confusing and kinda hard for me to explain because even I left feeling confused myself.

I still can’t help my feelings about the film though, and that is this film didn’t completely excite me. The effects were good, although sometimes scenes were needless, including the police chase scene and Lucy travelling through time (although it was interesting, it was still pointless). However as Lucy increases her cerebral capacity and telepathically reads Mr. Jang’s mind, accesses Professor Norman’s phone and television set and even manages to make a dog stop in it’s tracks, these scenes are more interesting because they can be connected to what professor Norman was saying at the start of the film.

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With the film being highly anticipated, I believe this is part of the reason why I am quite disappointed with the film. Don’t get me wrong, I’d probably see the film again, but to say I’ll be rushing into the nearest shop to get the DVD when it comes out will not be happening. The ridiculous storyline about people disintegrating and shipping drugs in people’s bodies make the film quite ridiculous overall and the lack of performances from the cast left me disappointed. Aside from the Asian gangsters, particularly Mr Jang, I wasn’t particularly fussed with the acting performances.

2/5.