Tag Archives: Dane DeHaan

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian posterThroughout his career it’s fair to say Luc Besson has often had the same criticism levelled against his work, that it is more style than substance. While his work is often visually high concept, in the likes of Leon aka The Professional and (more relevant here) The Fifth Element he has created films that are engrossing, energetic, eccentric but, above all, enjoyable… And now has come Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Fairly quickly this looks like it might inhabit similar territory to The Fifth Element as we are rapidly sent from the first meeting in space between the US and Soviets to the creation of Alpha, an enormous space station inhabited by species from around the galaxy heading off to explore the cosmos.

We also witness what at first appears to be an unrelated planetary apocalypse of a fairly psychedelic race’s home world getting destroyed by mysterious star ships leaving only handful of survivors.

We then meet our two leads, Dane DeHaan’s Valerian and Cara Delevingne’s Laureline, members of the military that controls Alpha on a mission to recover a mysterious artefact, while indulging in some of the most chemistry free romantic entanglements ever committed to celluloid.

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne in Valerian

Delevingne and DeHaan

From there the story is fairly episodic, giving the impression that Besson has taken a selection of ideas from the source comics and thrown them all into the movie script whether they fit or not.

This is particularly noticeable when the lead pair encounter an apparently xenophobic race who like a tasty human brain and, improbably, pop star Rhianna crops up to save the day for about five minutes and is then never mentioned again (its hard to avoid the feel of misjudged ‘stunt casting’ at this point).

Along with the slightly too episodic nature of the plot (the whole planetary apocalypse thing is present throughout but only really comes into focus again in the very end, by which point you’ll be at least one step ahead of everyone on-screen) the characters and performances have no sense of consistency or believability.

Rhianna in Valerian

Rhianna doing her best Sally Bowles

Now, I’m a fan of sci-fi so it’s not because of the setting or anything like that, but rather because they change entirely almost scene to scene giving particularly the leads and the main villain an almost schizophrenic edge that makes them impossible to get along with, care about or anything else.

Where the film does succeed is in its visuals, I don’t think there’s a single shot without some visual effect and in some cases entire scenes are entirely CGI but fit in with the live action elements (for the most part) excellently and the production design and costumes look, in their way, excellent (though what’s with Rhianna’s Cabaret moment?).

While the script and dialogue are never great it is in the closing scenes, where one might expect something to tidy up the various threads, it all just descends to into what is at best laughable and worst cringeworthy and, while it can be credited for not having a standard city destroying battle in its final act, what it does have just falls flat so, while the ending feels like it should be the beginning of the adventures of Valerien and Laureline, I honestly hope they are lost in space (though part of me was hoping for Roger Moore-era James Bond like final pay off gag).

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

the amazing spider-man 2 posterWith the contractual obligation, basic, but enjoyable, Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man a couple of years ago, things seemed to be heading in a reasonable direction for the web slinger.

Certainly that film had its flaws but its focus on the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), along with some new intrigue based on a slightly tweaked Spidey origin story made for an enjoyable watch.

In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 we start off in a reasonable place as, after a bit of a more in-depth look at what happened to Peter’s parents, we are dropped into the middle of a pretty well conceived chase through New York with police heading after a hijacked truck and Spider-Man joining in from above.

This does go a bit CG heavy in places (particularly as our hero juggles small orange phials of plutonium – surely it should be green?), but it gets the ball rolling pretty well as it sets up Peter’s clash between his life fighting crime and his life with Gwen.

Peter and Gwen

Peter and Gwen

What it also does is introduce us to Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) who is to become one of the films main problems, in a couple of senses.

The next portion of the film seemingly tries to pointlessly re-introduce us to everything the introduction has already re-established in terms of Peter’s relationships, whilealso setting up the film’s villain, comic book mainstay Electro, in one of the most convoluted super villain origins in a while, that never quite works.

Also introduced are Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan) and his father Norman (who cameoed in the first movie) and the film tries to establish Harry and Peter as best friends in a way that never convinces, leading to some serious problems later on.

Then we get another big action scene in Times Square as Electro’s powers are introduced following some more relationship stuff between Peter and Gwen. While the first film handled this side of the story well, here the supposed emotion feels generic and empty and, while both actors do a decent job, they really don’t seem to have much to work with.

Electro

Electro

Another villain is introduced as things go on and we start to head in the same direction of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 as the movie becomes over burdened with super villain exposition to such a degree that any hope of coherence or emotional attachment is lost and it all falls into by the numbers crash-bang-wallop.

While, thankfully, there aren’t the three villains of Raimi’s movie and there’s no ‘evil-emo-Peter’ song and dance number to cope with, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 descends into a bad video game like mess in its supposedly climactic action sequences, that totally negates the potential emotion of the film’s denouement.

Peter and Harry

Peter and Harry

This climax, which must have had Empire Strikes Back levels of potential on paper, is also completely blown by the scenes that follow which seem entirely inserted to set up not one but two possible sequels (I’m assuming The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and The Sinister Six… who knows what happened to 1 to 5).

These scenes may have worked, condensed, as a mid and post-credits sting, but, in the main body of the movie, just feel like a cop-out ending that is, in one case, the equivalent of hitting the ‘Reset’ on a SNES or Mega Drive.

While it could be argued there is a good film somewhere in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 it is, unfortunately, buried in a layer of extraneous villains, product placement and sequel bait, that leaves the whole thing feeling messy and generally incoherent which, in a climate of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Solider, just doesn’t cut it.

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Metallica: Through The Never

Metallica: Through The NeverI’ve previously reviewed the soundtrack album that goes with Metallica’s latest concert film, so here I will be primarily focusing on the film itself.

Shot in 3D and released in cinemas Metallica: Through The Never is the most lavish and extravagant concert film Metallica have released to date, following in quite a line of previous efforts which began with Cliff ‘Em All in the late 1980s and has continued pretty much in line with their studio albums from …And Justice For All to Death Magnetic.

With this history of concert films in mind what is presented here is, essentially, a pulling together of all of their previous efforts into one show packed with references, props and effects familiar to fans. Along with this there are things that, had they had the budget and technology in their earlier days, Metallica would probably have featured in their live shows in the mid-80s.

What this leads to is a perfectly satisfactory concert film that gives something of a flavour of the 30-plus year career of “the world’s biggest metal band”, but with a nagging sense that all these props are somewhat distracting, and at times detracting, from the four men on stage playing what should be predominantly viscerally intense music.

Through-the-Never

James Hetfield during Master of Puppets

I know I’ve mentioned the music before, but a brief thought on that before I continue. Across the film it all sounds fine, but for the most part, little more. This leaves a sense that the band are very much going through the motions and are presenting what feels like a ‘cabaret thrash’ show and it is really only on One, Nothing Else Matters and set closer Hit The Lights (when all the effects are put aside) that the might of Metallica’s glory days is really hinted at.

Alongside the straight performance sections of Through The Never comes another aspect to the film – a vaguely narrative arc running through the concert footage.

Dane DeHaan

Dane DeHaan

This concerns a young roadie-cum-stagehand-cum-fan who is sent on an obscure mission during the opening number who we cut back to throughout. While clearly not intended as a literal narrative to accompany the music it is somewhat abstract but, rather than adding an extra element to develop ideas presented in the songs, what these sequences tend to do is distract from the concert footage and are often jarring in transition between the two.

Much like the concert the narrative scenes, featuring Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan, are perfectly satisfactory and contain some interesting visuals and ideas, but it never really seems to come together to give the sense that both parts are serving the same master so the narrative arc is left somewhat lost.

Kirk Hammett and the Tesla Coils

Kirk Hammett and the Tesla Coils

What this leaves us with then is something that, unfortunately, captures current day Metallica pretty accurately. While there are still hints at what made them the powerhouse they were, and it appropriately celebrates this, Through The Never also shows them as the overblown behemoth they have become. So in the end, if you want to see a great Metallica concert film, it’s still best to dust of Live Shit: Binge & Purge, but if you want a spectacular, but ultimately soulless retread of some of their greatest songs (and a couple of others) then look no further – but the Ride The Lightning ‘Tesla coils” are cool!

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