Tag Archives: film

Silent Running

Silent Running posterThroughout November the Guernsey Museum at Candie Gardens have been showing a series of films to coincide with their rather excellent Engage Warp Drive exhibition of science fiction paraphernalia and the Guernsey Arts Commission‘s exhibition of work by Chris Foss.

Following on from Forbidden Planet from the 50s and The Quatermass Experiment from the 60s, was Douglas Trumbull’s 1972 classic Silent Running – a film that, despite my being an avid wittertainee and it being one of the favourite films of Mark Kermode, I had yet to see.

Made in the wake of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in fact by one of the people responsible for that films special effects, Silent Running exists as a parallel film in several ways.

The most obvious for me is that they are clearly both products of their time, with both strongly connected to the prevalent ‘counter culture’, either intentionally or otherwise.

While 2001 became a favourite for its trippy ‘stargate’ sequence and its ideas of expanded consciousness, Silent Running takes another tack, focusing on ideas of conservation and feeling very much the product of the so-called ‘hippy’ movement.

Bruce Dern and robots - Silent Running

Dern and two of the ‘robots’

Another way is in its visual style. While this is fairly obvious thanks to Trumbull’s involvement in the former, as 2001 presents a dark and stark image of space travel, in many ways, at least at first, Trumbull’s view is far more bright, colourful and comparatively homely, and certainly lighter, both visually and in tone.

The film centres on a performance by Bruce Dern as Freeman Lowell, a member of the crew of the Valley Forge, a ship carrying one of the Earth’s final forests (the earth having apparently undergone a Blade Runner 2049 like ecological disaster in the recent past).

Dern’s performance is a genuine tour de force as he spends most of the film acting alongside a trio of small robots (the clear forerunners to R2-D2) shifting from sympathetic eco-warrior through various stages until the film’s, in hindsight, inevitable climax.

Given the look of the film and the fact that it was made by a ‘special effects man’, Dern’s performance is all the more impressive as it gives the film a heart it could easily not have had and he is remarkably convincing in it.

Silent Running - Valley Forge

The Valley Forge and a sister ship

Credit for some of this must also be given to the actors inside the drone robots as they too manage to imbue near immobile boxes with surprising amounts of character, rather like their counterparts in Interstellar, but somewhat more modestly successful.

My one criticism of the film is that there are moments where it seems to sacrifice internal logic in order to further its thematic cause. While not a major problem as it leads to the film having a coherent feel and tone, there are moments where it jars, particularly for someone more accustomed to the more precise style of mainstream sci-fi that has come to the fore in the last few decades.

Silent Running Bruce Dern


Even with its generally ‘green’ message Silent Running does reach a climax that rather surprised me but again fits neatly into the post-Altamont-era making for a film that is undeniably great but that I feel will grow in my mind the more I think about it and with now inevitable re-watching.

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Murder On The Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express posterThere’s often talk of tapping into different audiences with films, with one that comes up with fair regularity being the somewhat patronisingly named ‘grey pound’.

On paper Kenneth Branagh’s take on Agatha Christie’s famed mystery, Murder On The Orient Express, falls firmly into this category with its cast of familiar faces, well-known name and the distinctly Sunday night period drama feel of its advertising.

For the most part that’s what the film delivered, following an elaborate bit of scene setting introducing Branagh as the magnificently moustached but awkwardly OCD detective Hercule Poirot with one of his famed pieces of sleuthing in Jerusalem, before he joins the titular train ride, with the rather impressive list of passengers, one of whom doesn’t last the duration.

Story-wise Branagh and co do a good job of building the sense of mystery and tension on the train even before the murder occurs, and, for the most part, this cranks up nicely throughout until the inevitable final reveal.

Not knowing the story before hand I didn’t feel anything was spoilt as it went along and the mystery was nicely maintained.

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot

Branagh as Poirot

While the cast list was impressive including Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Willem Defoe, Penelope Cruz and more, aside from Branagh most didn’t really have a huge amount to do, but they came together to create a nice ensemble of characters centred on Poirot, but each with their own enjoyable idiosyncrasies.

This version of Poirot meanwhile feels a little like a more sedate version of Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes, more due to the slightly irreverent and socially awkward feel than the slow motion bare knuckle fighting sense.

Where the film lost its way somewhat was the pace, at times it felt like it wanted to be a very deliberate murder mystery tracing Poirot from clue to clue as he put the pieces together and this is when it was at its best.

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp

At other times however it gave in to bursts of action that felt a little out-of-place or speedy montage’s that didn’t really sit well with the rest of the film, along with an unfortunate habit of having people telling us how good Poirot is at his job rather than relying on his impressive sleuthing to make that point.

In the end though it balanced out ok and, while the climactic explanation scene was a little clichéd and ridiculous (though I suspect this may be the source of the cliché), it came with a spirit that was, to probably stretch a metaphor to breaking point, like the cherry on top of one of the cakes it seems Poirot is so fond of.

So, what Branagh has created is just that, a nice, enjoyable confection that won’t over stretch the mind or sit especially heavily on the memory, but does a good job of bridging the gap between older and younger audiences and I can see becoming a longstanding Christmas evening favourite once it makes its way to TV.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming posterIt’s hard to escape the fact that this is the third iteration of Marvel’s wise cracking web spinner in the past two decades.

While Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was generally well received (for the first two appearances at least), Andrew Garfield’s take on Peter Parker has at best been relegated to being a footnote in the Marvel canon (though I thought it had its merits even if the films pretty much missed the target).

So we now get the first full film featuring a Spider-Man inhabiting the same universe as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, et al – Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Here Tom Holland plays a version Peter Parker far more true to the original comics and as seen in Captain America: Civil War; a 15-year-old high school student who is a science wiz but something of a social outcast and happens to have, at some point relatively recently, acquired super powers.

A massive point to the film’s credit is that it doesn’t just go over the origin again – there are a couple of throw away lines and no mention at all of Uncle Ben or great power coming with great responsibility, making it all feel remarkably fresh.

Jacob Batalon and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming

Jacob Batalon as Ned and Holland as Parker

The plot is pretty much what one would expect with your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man discovering and tracking down one of his rogues gallery of villains, in this case a version of The Vulture played by Michael Keaton in excellent fashion, and continuing a slightly ‘meta’ trend that has led from Tim Burton’s Batman, via Birdman, to here.

What helps set it apart from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe run of recent times is that it really does keep things (pretty much) at ground level.

Rather than dealing with the ongoing civil war story or adding to the sci-fi/mysticism stuff that’s been going on of late in Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor and Doctor Strange, this is about people in New York living and reacting after the events of the ‘bigger’ films, with a nice streak of light-hearted humour running through it.

Michael Keaton as The Vulture

Keaton as The Vulture

In this way it almost feels more like The Defenders Netflix series and its progenitors, but a teen version rather than the grittier, adult toned, outings they’ve had.

Connecting it to the bigger story are appearances by Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark and, more prominently, Jon Favreau’s ‘Happy’ Hogan, the second of whom particularly fits the tone and I think could become a recurring figure in this run of Spidey movies.

In the end though, rather like Ant-Man did a couple of years ago, this feels like a breath of fresh air in the MCU and certainly refreshes its leads character in just the way that was needed.

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Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 posterEver since the announcement of Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-if movie of the early 80s, there was a sense of worry, for two reasons.

First was wondering could a sequel heading back into this world after such a long break live up to its predecessor and not just spoil it, and secondly, given it took about three watches for me to properly appreciate the original, would I be left cold and/or more confused than satisfied after a first watch.

As the film begins and we are introduced to Ryan Gosling’s new Blade Runner, K, initially appearing very similar to Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, as he speeds across a future California under a grey sky and over a vast ‘farm’ to track down a renegade replicant.

Through this encounter we learn that K is also a more modern form of replicant and what at first appears rather routine sets in motion a series of events that build on the themes, mysteries and story of the original film in a wider context.

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049

Gosling as K

What really makes Blade Runner 2049 work so well is how it expands what we already know of this world; from the thirty years between the settings, to showing us more of this ruined future Earth, but all with purpose and not just to show off some impressive special effects (though it does have impressive special effects).

Added to this is the attention to detail in this being a future of the world Scott created rather than just a future version of now.

I won’t go into too much detail of the plot, but as it goes on it raises some pretty big questions for a major blockbuster level film, particularly focussing on what it means to be human.

While this is the same question raised in the original here it is developed further, both through the advancements in the technology of the replicants and with the introduction of holographic life forms.

Blade Runner 2049 Los Angeles

Los Angeles 2049

This is then balanced with a good dose of noir styled dialogue, some very well handled and never gratuitous action that actually moves the story forward and a pace that echoes the original and stands out from current blockbuster cinema by being very measured and deliberate – in less talented hands it could be called slow but it never feels that, rather crediting the audience with patience and intelligence.

As the film ends with enough sense of mystery maintained to not spoil the original and with enough story told to leave new questions, Blade Runner 2049 is a great movie that has everything in place it might need to become a longstanding classic of the genre, and based on this I’m now even more excited by the rumoured prospect of Denis Villeneuve directing a new version of Frank Herbert’s Dune.

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Mindhorn posterComing from the same group of people that created Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Christmas rock opera AD/BC and The Mighty Boosh, there was a fairly solid set of expectations going into Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby’s Mindhorn.

To say it didn’t disappoint in these is an understatement as the story, in an echo of Darkplace, focusses on a less than successful vintage television show.

Here though, rather than just showing that programme, Mindhorn takes this and, through a murder mystery maguffin on the Isle of Man, brings the character into the real world, through the prism of now washed up actor Richard Thorncroft (Barratt).

Really, the plot is a bit of a sideshow to creating a series of scenes that see Thorncroft do his best to reboot his career with the aid (or lack there of) of a series of side characters from the relatively normal, former love interest and co-star turned local TV journalist Patricia Deville (Essie Davis), to the twisted caricature PR emprasario Geoffrey Moncrief (Richard McCabe) and the apparent villain to Mindhorn’s super heroic detective, The Kestrel (Russel Tovey on excellently bizarre form).

Julian Barratt as Thorncroft/Mindhorn

Barratt as Thorncroft/Mindhorn

This all runs very close to the line of not working at all, but, in the hands of so many performers and creators well versed in this kind of flight of fancy, it is a hilarious ride of a film.

Barratt in particular puts in a great turn as Thorncroft/Mindhorn that makes what could be a genuinely horrible character engaging and entertaining, even if we never really care too much if he ends up rebooting his career – but then I’m not sure that’s ever the intention.

The rest of the supporting cast all do an admirable job too, giving their all despite some impressively bizarre scenes that you feel some actors might not be able to deliver with enough of a straight face.

The setting and references may be where the film hits a roadblock in its appeal. While similar in some ways to the likes of The Naked Gun, which had a universal appeal, this relies on references to standards of 80s British TV maybe a little too much.

To me, comments about Bergerac, John Nettles, Wogan and more, make perfect sense, but I can only imagine that on an audience younger or outside the UK they may be lost.

Simon Farnaby as Clive Parnevik

Simon Farnaby as Clive Parnevik

The setting of the Isle of Man may also cause the same problem. While it’s easy to recognise the caricature of the place presented in Mindhorn, it is a very British feeling locale I’d expect to find in a television sitcom rather than a film (though that didn’t harm Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz).

In the end though Mindhorn is a great fun film that, while it’s unlikely to bec e to modern classic, features a couple of great performances and comes with a sense of uncynical fun in its ridiculousness that is hard to fault.

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Cain Hill

Cain Hill posterHorror cinema is a funny thing. It’s one of the oldest genres of populist film and has been a constant presence from Nosferatu to Bride of Frankenstein to Psycho to Texas Chainsaw to Blair Witch to Saw and onwards.

Through that time it has shifted and changed, evolved you could say, to keep up with the times, and in that has ranged from the highest of budgets to the lowest with success rarely dependent on that factor.

Cain Hill then is a new super low-budget feature film from Guernsey born director Gene Fallaize that had a special screening and Q&A at the island’s Beau Cinema on 29th September 2017 thanks to Guernsey Arts Commission.

The film takes the form of a kind of found footage piece, combined with a more traditional haunted house story with bits of slasher movie thrown in telling the story of a documentary crew investigating an abandoned psychiatric hospital, supposedly inhabited by a murderous former patient/inmate.

While the low-budget means the film does look and feel rather cheap as I’ve said this can be overcome, particularly in this genre – see the original Evil Dead for one. In Cain Hill however it never quite manages to do this, despite the obvious efforts of the filmmakers.

Cain Hill cast

The main cast

With lots of references to classics of the style, along with the feeling that pretty much every trope of the genre has been thrown into the mix, the final outcome is a muddle that strives to build a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere around its lead characters (a generally unlikable and unrelatable bunch) but ultimately seems to want to focus more on its villain, the mask wearing, baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire with nails through it wielding, Chester Lockheart (the physically impressive Phill Martin).

Cain Hill isn’t alone in focusing too much on its monster and stumbling because of it, but I think it just feels more noticeable here as the tension necessary to make him truly horrifying is missing and, unfortunately, slips too far into either just being slow rather than tense or, when the action kicks in, sadly laughable (a response shared by several in the cinema tonight).

Cain Hill - Chester Lockheart

Chester Lockheart

In the end then Cain Hill comes with a lot of ambition but, partially due to the limited means, partially due to a flawed structure, it seemed to not know what it wanted to be and quite how to overcome these shortcomings to create a satisfying final product.

Following the film we got a Q&A session with the director which added some extra confusion to the film, particularly around the source material that, apparently, is loosely based on a true story, but it was hard to pin down exactly in what way.

This was added to by the announcement that Fallaize’s next film would also be based on a true story, that of The Beast of Jersey, giving the feeling that there is a bit too much of a sense of exploitation going on in these choices (though I got the feeling this wasn’t exactly intentional).

Cain Hill Q&A

Host Wynter Tyson with Gene Fallaize (left) at the Q&A

Aside from this though the Q&A was interesting although I was left with the feeling that this was something of a misguided passion project and possibly could have worked better if cut back to a leaner running time.

Also through the Q&A we found out the film has distribution and will be released around Halloween thanks to producer Scott Spiegel, who rose to prominence as producer of genre landmark, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead – so it seems whatever I missed he got about Cain Hill.

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Shock Treatment

Shock Treatment blu-rayFor a long time, Shock Treatment, Richard O’Brien’s follow-up to cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a mysterious footnote in cinema history relegated to second-hand VHS or an occasional obscure late night TV showing.

Now though, thanks to Arrow Video, it’s been released in fully restored high-definition from as part of a Blu-ray collectors pack along with the soundtrack CD and the usual other bits and bobs.

The film is, in some ways, a direct sequel to Rocky Horror, continuing the story of the now married Brad and Janet Majors (sadly not Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon but Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper, of Suspiria fame).

Set in the studios of DTV, an apparent Black Mirror-ish all-encompassing reality TV network (long before the phrase came to mean anything) in their hometown of Denton, it echoes its forebear in many ways.

Cliff DeYoung and Jessica Harper

Brad (DeYoung) and Janet (Harper)

Firstly it has the feel of a series of loosely connected vignettes, secondly the antagonists are a brother and sister/incestuous lover duo played with creepily surreal brilliance by O’Brien and Patricia Quinn (with more than a hint of Riff Raff and Magenta), thirdly it features a selection of suitably rock ‘n’ roll songs to string it all together.

The setting is also very suggestive of ‘The Frankenstein Place’ from the original, with the feeling of being a kind of separate realm to Brad and Janet’s usual reality, but the transition to it is less well handled so we don’t get such a clearly defined other space that it really feels like the film needs to make sense.

Along with this we get some great production design that makes it feel like we are really trapped in a low-budget local TV network along with Brad and Janet, while the selection of cast members is one to behold; from Barry Humphries as a kind Frank like ringleader, to a very young pre-Young Ones Rik Mayal and Ruby Wax to several recurring performers from Rocky Horror which help tie things together, including Charles Gray and ‘Little’ Nell Campbell.

Shock Treatment cast

Mayal, Quinn, Campbell and O’Brien

Not only are some of the cast recurring but the entire main production team also returns, helping the at least stylistic similarities.

While it’s all rather ‘bonkers fun’ (to quote my immediate reaction on Facebook) it’s falls down when compared to its predecessor in a couple of crucial ways.

First is that it lacks a central figure, like Tim Curry’s Frank N Furter, to really lead us through the vignettes. Janet is arguably the lead here but never quite grabs the screen enough, while Humphries’ vampiric TV host Bert Schnick fills the physical space but not the thematic one, though there are hints that in a different world he might have.

Second is that it doesn’t have such a strong over arching message though it feels likes its trying to reach for one. Rocky Horror struck such a chord with its anthemic cry of ‘Don’t dream it, be it!’ while Shock Treatment feels more like a warning against the cult of celebrity and reality TV. In that it is impressively prescient, but it just never quite gets it across in the way you feel it wants to.

Barry Humphries and Richard O'Brien

Humphries and O’Brien

So, while its obvious why Shock Treatment hasn’t found a place in the pop culture pantheon that its predecessor did, even O’Brien admits it’s a mess, it remains more than the footnote it had been relegated to and if it’s anything like Rocky Horror its appeal will grown with familiarity.


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It (2017)

It 2017 posterThe image of Tim Curry as Pennywise The Dancing Clown, the most famous visage of Stephen King’s famed horror creation It, is one that has been ever-present in the back of my mind as a pop culture avatar of fear, despite the fact I’ve never seen the mini-series (later edited into a film) he appeared or (entirely) read the book on which it was based.

Now director Andy Muschietti and a host of producers have brought the tale of Derry, Maine to the big screen with Bill Skarsgård in the Curry role. 

The story follows a group of junior high school kids over the summer of 1988 as a number of their classmates disappear and they begin to see strange things. While I’m sure many already know the story I won’t elaborate much more.

Anyone familiar with the original will know it was based in 1958 and, while I was sceptical about the update, it largely works well as it falls suitably before cell phones and the themes of growing up and ‘coming of age’ fit just as well to both eras, though there are a couple of moments that feel a little anachronistic.

The group of young actors who play the self-named ‘losers club’ are, once the film settles in, all excellent but it’s Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denborough and Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh who really stand out finding some of the emotional depth that exists in King’s epic novel and making it come to life.

It - The Losers Club

The Losers Club

Meanwhile the other members of the club are somewhat relegated compared to their text selves, but this is understandable as part of the translation and all have enough to do to not feel like ‘red shirts’.

As well as this perennial bully Henry Bowers has an extra added quality on top of his physical brutality and nastiness that may be me seeing things but aren’t there but if not is a very nice touch.

What really makes the film work though is the atmosphere it creates. Across its first half we see Derry as a normal town but with something else creeping just below the surface and, through the youngsters view, it is a surprisingly sinister place.

Muschietti does a great job of creating this feeling mixing modern horror tropes with much of Kings’ source material, translated startlingly to the screen, along with something of the idea that when following young characters you keep everything shot at their level. Then in the second half we meet this sinister something face to face.

It - Pennywise - Bill Skarsgard

Skarsgard as Pennywise

Added to this is a Pennywise who treads the line between ridiculous and terrifying expertly.

Skarsgård’s performance occasionally raises a laugh but within it is more of that creeping sense of fear that the character needs, combined with enough well judged jump scares to keep you on your toes.

On top of this other aspects of It appear and are equally effective, making it clear that Pennywise is just one facet of the fear demon (or whatever It actually is) but like in the book he is the one who seems to cut through the most.

If I have one criticism of the film it’s that it seems to miss something of the more deep-seated ideas that exist within the book and are a strong part of King’s work in general, but this may be down to the fact that this film is only half the story so I’m hoping some of this gets dealt with when we meet the adult versions of our heroes.

It - The house on Neibolt street

The house on Neibolt street

To counter this though the film does build a very nice streak of ‘coming of age’ that feels far more well handled than I’ve seen in cinema for a long time, bringing to mind the works of John Hughes and films like The Goonies or (more recently) Stranger Things.

Andy Muschietti’s It, then, combines a nostalgic adventure film sensibility with the kind of creeping horror found in the best supernatural chillers and an iconic horror creation that could live on like Freddie, Jason, Michael Myers, et al, and I can’t wait for Chapter Two…

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The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club posterWidely considered one of the quintessential films of the 1980s, The Breakfast Club is John Hughes’ exploration of life in American high schools remains as fascinating now as ever.

While I have seen the film in the past its been a long time and to such a degree that my memory of it was vague at best, but somehow, as soon as that Simple Minds riff kicks in it feels like some kind of time warp is in action and we are thrown to that Saturday morning in Shermer, Illinois.

The plot of the film, what there is of it as this isn’t really about a plot, sees a group of teenagers in Saturday detention with, essentially, each representing one of the archetypal groups of high school kids.

So we have the brain (Anthony Michael Hall as Brian Johnson, the academic ‘geek’), the athlete (Emilio Estevez’s wrestling team member Andy Clark), the basket case (Ally Sheedy as eccentric loner Allison Reynolds), the princess (Hughes’ regular Molly Ringwald as spoilt rich kid Claire Standish) and the criminal (Judd Nelson’s aggressive, defensive bully, John Bender).

At the start the five all arrive in the school study hall at odds with one another and teacher Mr Vernon (Paul Gleason), one of only two adult characters in the main body of the film but, as the things go on, through a series of episodic incidents, the five begin to reveal more about themselves as they try to kill the eight hours they have in detention and gradually realise they are more than the stereotypes they all see each other as.

The Breakfast Club

Nelson, Estevez, Sheedy, Ringwald and Hall

This really is the story. While there is a thread of the five characters doing their best to subvert the power of the adult authority figure, what it really revolves around the five talking, antagonising one another, but ultimately revealing extra layers of themselves and coming out of the experience changed.

While this is set in the context of one day what it really feels like is a microcosm of the entire high school experience and, in this, feels in many ways pretty timeless, hence its ongoing reputation.

What really makes this work is how Hughes treads the line between a realistic world and a heightened one, something he demonstrated time and again with the likes of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Here it takes a while to bed in as a viewer but Hughes works with this so the opening feels like a natural setting before the various episodes build to a point where it is something more than this.

Paul Gleason in The Breakfast Club


While the film maybe isn’t as flawless as some would suggest, the episodic nature does feel a little bolted together in places (though in the end it becomes obvious this is part of the thematic intent), the ending is probably a little too cosy and the transformation of Allison is painful and really is the one moment where the film’s message runs into trouble, it is none-the-less genre defining and still stands up.

In a world where teen comedies descended into the likes of the later American Pies and really died a death after that, The Breakfast Club stands out as something defining and pretty well timeless with a generally good message in the end. It also shows Hughes as a master of taking what is in every sense a boring setting and filling it with characters and dialogue that create something with depth and purpose without resorting to the ridiculousness of what most who have tried to follow him have done.

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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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