Bes­son’s Va­le­rian sure is a wild ride

North Taranaki Midweek - - OUT & ABOUT -

VA­LE­RIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOU­SAND PLAN­ETS (M, 137 MINS), DI­RECTED BY LUC BES­SON,

If you’re both­er­ing to read this, then you’re prob­a­bly al­ready aware that Va­le­rian and the City of a Thou­sand Plan­ets has tanked big-time at the US box of­fice.

In a year not un­der-en­dowed with tent-pole tur­keys – hello King Arthur, Ghost in the Shell, The Great Wall Va­le­rian Va­le­rian Dune, Va­le­rian et Lau­re­line

Star Wars

Fifth El­e­ment.

Bes­son’s trans­la­tion of the comics is po­lar­is­ing. The cast are too young, the plot­ting is just too silly (I scrawled Avatar-goes-toSe­same Street in my note­book. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, The but I’ll stand by it).

What I laugh­ingly re­fer to as my cred­i­bil­ity is prob­a­bly about to take a dent big­ger than the one it re­ceived when I said I liked Speed Racer. But I ab­so­lutely, flat out, com­pletely in­de­fen­si­bly loved Va­le­rian and the City of a Thou­sand Plan­ets.

Bes­son (who also had a hand in the screen­play) is at his best when he lets his imag­i­na­tion off the leash and makes a film for the sheer plea­sure of putting on a show. And Va­le­rian gives him ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to go bat-poo mad with the dig­i­tal crayons.

As a feat of de­sign – glar­ing, ab­surd, joy­ous and in­sane de­sign – Va­le­rian won’t eas­ily be top­pled. We tend to save our praise for the gloom-rid­den vi­sions of Blade Run­ner and its ilk, while be­ing dis­mis­sive of any­thing can­dy­coloured and hi­lar­i­ous. But what Bes­son and his team have done here – on the big­gest screen you can find – is just star­tling.

The open­ing stanza, fea­tur­ing Dane DeHaan – who is ac­tu­ally 31 years old, but looks about 12-anda-half – be­ing pur­sued through a trans­di­men­sional 28th-cen­tury mall by an in­ter­ga­lac­tic, mul­ti­species goon squad sets the tone for a film that re­fuses to ever rest, ex­plain it­self or play by the rules.

If you like your sci-fi at the Dou­glas Adams, Doc­tor Who and Terry Pratch­ett end of the scale, then you might like this Va­le­rian as much as I did.

The plot, what there is of it, mostly re­volves around a con­spir­acy to cover up the de­struc­tion of the home world of the peo­ple of Mul. All of whom look – in a nice way – like the prog­eny of Kate Moss and a Klin­gon.

The planet of hair­less and mostly naked vaguely rep­tiloid su­per­mod­els got caught in the cross­fire of some great in­ter­stel­lar bust-up years be­fore. And it’s pretty ob­vi­ous that Clive Owen – an ac­tor who al­most al­ways looks slightly mis­cast, here play­ing the req­ui­site Brit bad­die – is in it up to his vaguely Nazi-es­que, but limegreen, breeches.

In truth, the plot is just an ex­cuse to fling DeHaan, Cara Delev­ingne – as Lau­re­line – and sundry oth­ers into a suc­ces­sion of set-pieces that can only es­ca­late in their lu­di­crous­ness.

The Ri­hanna-as-shapeshift­ing-bur­lesque-dancer scene that is all over the trail­ers ex­ists for no rea­son other than that it can. But as a feat of de­sign and film-mak­ing it’s go­ing to be ripped-off and im­i­tated for years.

Lis­ten. So much of Va­le­rian and the City of a Thou­sand Plan­ets just doesn’t work. The script – by Bes­son – sounds like it has been run through Google trans­late and then printed out in the wrong or­der.

By bom­bard­ing us with spec­ta­cle in ev­ery frame, Bes­son keeps us watch­ing, but never ac­tu­ally ab­sorbed. But, for all that, Va­le­rian and the City of a Thou­sand Plan­ets kept me grin­ning pretty much from be­gin­ning to end.

Just for the look, the scale, the am­bi­tion and the sheer over­whelm­ing goofi­ness of it, I’m a fan. I read last week that Speed Racer is be­ing reeval­u­ated by crit­ics and turn­ing up at mid­night cult screen­ings.

Which is prob­a­bly where Va­le­rian is also go­ing to find its truest au­di­ence, and for years to come. – Graeme Tuck­ett

As a feat of de­sign – glar­ing, ab­surd, joy­ous and in­sane de­sign – Va­le­rian won’t eas­ily be top­pled.

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