I walked out of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets grinning from ear to ear and giggling like a child. Luc Besson’s adaptation of the Valerian and Laureline comic books is a breath of fresh air after what seems like an eternity of drab fantasy comic book cinema. This doesn’t feel recycled or ponderous, it feels like a comic book brought to life with tonnes of imagination and wit.
It sometimes feels a bit too much, it’s so packed with ideas that I’m wondering what I missed and I think watching it in 3D was maybe one layer too many. There’s also a problem with length (a regular gripe this summer) and the charm of witnessing a comic serial unfold is lessened slightly by one long segment that side-tracks proceedings and ‘damsels’ Laureline just once too often. Which is a real pity because the central pairing of Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne brings a weird offbeat energy to proceedings that feels much more equitable than similar films.
Slight misgivings aside, it’s still a wonderful film. It’s brash and fun in the same way as Besson’s The Fifth Element. I can fully see why other people might dislike or even actively hate it, it’s ‘peak Besson’ and that’s a dangerous place for film makers (Mann and Malick both need to step back from the edge) but, for me, it hit all the right notes.
Go to the cinema to watch this movie and you will be entertained. That’s the deal Universal offered with the trailer and that is what they have honoured. The film gets a lot right, the characters are clear and so is the action. Everything moves long at a great pace (for once 2hrs didn’t feel like it), and it looks great. Even the fan-service is done right including some well judged Faye Wray echoes.
You pay your money, you see the beasties, they’ve spared no expense.
What the film doesn’t have is the wonder and awe that preserved Jurassic Park (1993) as a classic. One moment takes the breath away (the flare and the gate) but this isn’t a movie that looks up, it’s a disaster flick and Aliens (1986) and the forever ongoing American trauma of jungle warfare. I’ve got no problem with this it’s just a matter of what the film is and isn’t; blockbuster entertainment as you hoped for but it promises not to trouble you any further.
Detritus – I saw it in 3D and as we don’t pay more for extra dimensions at my local cinema I feel guilty recommending it too freely but it did work well… even if it does have a great example of 3D’s miniaturizing effect that gives us sweeping shots of a toy helicopter.
From 8 – 13 June they are holding a bit of a sci-fest (sorry about that) with 3D screenings of Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Gravity (2013), Pacific Rim (2013), Prometheus (2012), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Godzilla (2014). If you can only go to one I would suggest Gravity, it’s a great opportunity to see it on a larger screen and the use of 3D’s weird miniaturizing effect is devastating. I’m also duty bound to recommend Pacific Rim because a giant robot hits a giant monster with a giant boat.
So the problem here is that the movie is a complete dog.
There are 101 reasons why the film is terrible but the overarching blame must rest on the ‘found footage’ gimmick that is applied in such a slip-shod fashion that whenever it is highlighted it knocks you out of the film as you wonder ‘who was holding that camera?’, ‘how are we watching footage from that camera when it just got sucked into a fire tornado?’ or ‘if I was just about to drown would I really be filming a video diary?’ etc.
The word ‘conceit’ looms large here in big flashing lights but, perversely, this is the only movie I’ve watched in the past couple of years where I kept wishing it was in 3D… because if ever something should have been a fairground ride it was this one.
There’s plenty to like about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. From the genre building blocks and Kong iconography, the well staged action scenes and the numerous character parallels, all playing out within a story that remains engaging despite the inevitability of it all. But what’s really impressive is the simple patience on display. The opening, signed and subtitled section introducing us to the apes and their culture, slowly building the apes’ abilities and our acceptance. The emotional rediscovery of lost images. The Weight. The step back into darkness.
Here is a film that takes it’s time and rewards you with monkeys and machine guns.
I saw it in 3D and I can’t see that it added much but there were a couple of moments that jarred. The most obvious was when a character was searching in a room and the deep focus allowed a box in the foreground to be in focus. The focus foreshadowed that the box would contain what the character was looking for but it didn’t. It just seemed for a moment that no choices were being made and the scene was a little lost.