Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets

If there’s one thing we love talking about here at Save the Movies, it’s movies that we feel are underappreciated and unloved. Our selection varies wildly in that regard, and it usually comes down to some film either Scott and / or I feel gets a bit of a raw deal in terms of common wisdom. Maybe it’s because of the always awesome LL Cool J (Deep Blue Sea). Maybe it’s because it’s a flawed masterpiece (Speed Racer). Maybe it’s because one of us really, really loves classic pulp (Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow). And maybe it’s because it’s a decent giant snake movie with a few interesting elements (Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid).

The reasons are always subjective. The films we choose spoke to us in some way, and we’re all-too-happy to discuss them with a more appreciative angle than usually expected.

This is the internet, after all, where snark rules and launching a podcast trying to unironically appreciate movies (some of them accepted as outright “bad”) is a risky bet at best.

But what about those movies that we don’t love that still have something interesting in them? A movie that I saw this very weekend: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. It’s not good. Not exactly. It isn’t what I would call bad though. It’s mostly neutral, which is what I expected going to see it.

I can’t recommend Valerian. Not without qualification. It resembles Besson’s other sprawling sci fi epic The Fifth Element. Both films feature a bright, colorful future where technology is practically magic and the plot, such as it is, rushes forward with little concern for narrative justification. Things happen because they’re interesting, not because they’re sensible. Where both succeed is in creating familiar and alien futures full of bizarre possibilities.

Yet I found that I liked The Fifth Element quite a bit more. I wouldn’t consider it a smarter film, nor any more sensible than Valerian. It’s perhaps that Element knows it is light and overcompensates by filling the cast with broad characters that come across as more interesting than the really are. It’s buoyed immensely by terrific casting.

This is the movie that gave us Earth President Tommy “Tiny” Lister, who we all remember played Zeus in the Hulk Hogan classic No Holds Barred, and had Bruce Willis playing, well, Bruce Willis. This is a film where Gary Oldman affected a ridiculous accent and an even more ridiculous haircut and managed to get away with it. And Mia Jovovich was basically the pretty girl who doesn’t say much, beats up some people, and looks good doing it.

Valerian doesn’t have any of that. None of the actors are particularly interested in elevating their flat characters, with the possible exception of Rhianna as Bubble, the shape-shifting alien exotic dancer who imbues the film with a lot of needed life while she’s in it. She is perhaps the only character with enough life to care about, and not in the film nearly enough. Bubble could’ve been the LL Cool J of Valerian if only Besson had noticed.

So with Valerian, we end up with an energetic successor to Element lacking the character energy that ended up making Element a cult classic. Does this mean Valerian is a bad movie? I don’t know. For a lot of people who want simple answers, the answer will surely be yes. And I can’t exactly disagree.

But I did enjoy it. And not ironically, either.

The problem is that once I walked out, I didn’t find myself especially satisfied by it. More importantly, Element, despite its flaws, is very rewatchable. But Valerian, not so much. Although it does have some great sequences. I particularly enjoyed our hero using his power suit to literally crash through Alpha, charging through multiple environments in rapid succession. And the opening five minutes of watching a space station evolve through the ages into an international beacon of intergalactic cooperation is dynamite.

And Bubble was a lot of fun.

It’s unlikely Valerian will ever make it onto the podcast because while I feel the film is perhaps unfairly maligned, I can’t really call it a good movie. Yet for all its flaws, it’s no more vapid and weightless than the Transformers movies, and they make billions.

So see it if you’re interested in some cool visuals, and don’t mind spending time with some flat characters as part of the price of admission.

Oh, and No Holds Barred? That’s not technically a “good” movie either, but it’s brimming with character. Will we do an episode on it one day?

Probably not.

But then again…

LEE

Episode 16 – MCU Part 2 – MCU gets weird

Scott and Marvel aficionado Lee (and Adrienne) talk MCU movies post-Winter Soldier through pre-Guardians 2

Part 2 of our review of the MCU is here. Scott and Lee and Adrienne skim from Guardians 1 all the way to Guardians 2 (almost). We get into the deep end of comic book movies, and Lee’s boundless knowledge of all things comic book.

Featuring: Lee talking a lot about comic books.

This episode brought to you by Copper Key Designs. If you are selling a home in the DFW area, stage your house and sell faster.

Episode 16 – MCU Part 1 – Odintown

Scott and Lee and Adrienne talk MCU! Marvel needed saving apparently.

We’re back after our longest hiatus yet! Hopefully we won’t make a habit of it.  Scott and special agent Lee (and first guest ever, Adrienne!) get all opinionated about the MCU. Part 1 covers Iron Man through Winter Soldier chronologically.

Featuring : Our first guest!, Nick Cage saving comic book movies, Red Skull as plucky underdog, lot’s of Lee gushing about Man Thing, and Odintown in the touristy section of Asgard.

This episode brought to you by Copper Key Designs. They didn’t pay us or anthing, but.. baby steps. If you are selling a home in the DFW area, consider home staging to make the process faster and more profitable.

Episode 15 – Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid

Scott and Lee watch Anacondas and feel some sympathy for the snakes.

Scott and adorable capuchin monkey Lee watch Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid. It’s a formulaic monster movie that we strip mine to find traces of writing gold and diversity silver.

Featuring Captain Handsome and his stabby knife, damned attractive actors, consumerism, Hollywood’s hatred of science, snake racism, Borneo being a real location, and believable conflict.

Episode 14 – The Campaign

Scott and Lee watch The Campaign and are finally forced to talk politics. Goodbye blissful ignorance.

After a long break, we’re back! Scott and Lee watch the Campaign, a satirical (?) treatment of modern american politics with Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakas. The Campaign is a hard movie to classify. It’s not exactly a typical Will Ferrell comedy, and little too accurate to be funny sometimes.

Featuring: The exponential progress of technology, sweet sweet ignorance, the double down from KFC, how good Anchorman 2 clearly is, demagoguery(of course), Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, goat blowjobs, realistic Batman, and Nazi hipsters.

Episode 13 – Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Scott and Lee talk about Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and lament what the expanded universe could have been.

Scott and mad scientist Lee watch Kerry Conran’s only movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. We dive deep on this one into what makes a character believable. Lee goes on at length about how much he likes and is inspired by old pulp stories. Also Kerry Conran, if you ever kickstart anything, I will give you money!

Featuring: Emoting!, how to make a proper homage, media juggernauts, Monster Squad, the genesis of Scott writing an article, Sepia tones, Polly Perkins comics, me am play god, lying with statistics, Hot Shots part Deux, objectivist independence, the island of Dr. Thoreau, british serials, and why we enjoy the wheel of metaphors.

The Art of Convention

 

A lot of movies that we watch here at Save the Movies have stories that are predictable. Often that description would be considered an epithet, especially when applied to a story or movie, but being able to guess the beats a story will hit doesn’t mean we won’t enjoy it.  We’ve watched and enjoyed movies like Speed Racer, even though about 15 minutes in, most people could probably make an outline for the rest of the movie that would be pretty close to the actual script. Spoiler alert, Speed Racer wins the big race!

It’s not a surprise to anyone watching, but that doesn’t stop it from being an entertaining movie. It doesn’t matter that we know where Speed Racer is going to end up, the ride is a lot of fun. Looking at our uploads so far, the majority of movies that we’ve talked about fit into conventional themes, which makes sense. A good twist can be difficult to pull off. Continue reading “The Art of Convention”

Episode 12 – The Last Dragon

Scott and Lee watch The Last Dragon, and finally answer the age old question ‘Who’s badder than the master?’.

Scott and Lee (the Shogun of Lewisville), watch The Last Dragon, Berry Gordy’s classic kung fu movie. Taimak, Vanity, Julius Carry, and a totally radical 80s soundtrack make up this timeless cult hit.

Featuring being old enough to remember the 80s, Speed Racer again, classic kung fu plots, Taimak!, celebrity mortality, DeBarge, the durability of monetary policy as a writing device, 80s fashion, DeBarge dopplegangers, henchmen team building, villain tryouts, and proper character motiviation.

Episode 11 – Speed Racer

Scott and Lee review the Wachowskis’ randian allegory (we were surprised to) Speed Racer

Scott and mysterious racer Lee take on Speed Racer, a super stylized live action movie based on the classic cartoon, written and directed by the Wachowskis. Featuring bee catapults, racer-sexuals, Rocky IV, Roger Allam’s exquisite villainy, accessible objectivism, a smidge of science, and a dash of politics.

Episode 10 – The Car

Scott and Lee review The Car, a 1970s horror movie about a murderous vehicle that won’t take no guff. An excellent movie whether you like your metaphors car shaped or not.

Scott and alcoholic deputy Lee review The Car, a 1970s era horror film about a killer car terrorizing a small town. The Car’s thirst for blood won’t be denied, so we don’t! Featuring an emoting car, Ronny Cox’s alchoholism, serious character development, native americans as normal people, and the prestigious Alex award that Lee totally didn’t make up.

This episode also introduces our new segment The Wheel of Metaphors! Since art can mean whatever you want it to mean, we let fate take the wheel (pun intended) and tell us what the movie really meant.