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Movie Review: ‘Valerian’ Has a Thousand Ideas, Little Personality

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou can tell that Luc Besson wrote and directed this sci-fi adventure with the way he places his efforts more on developing a fantastic galaxy of starships and aliens than most of the characters that occupy the universe of Valerian. While he does make the smart call of overloading the screen with as many visually stunning and original ideas as possible, he forgot to place some of this ingenuity into his leads.

How could I possibly relate to the special agent duo of Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) when their light romantic talk comes in the form of cold exposition of stating personality traits? The movie apparently doesn’t have time to establish Valerian as a brash, headstrong and lady-killer of a young man and would rather Laureline list these traits without a hint of emotion. If this is the way humans speak in the future, we might as well let the robots conquer our species.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Shocked at their lack of chemistry?

What the film lacks in humans that speak like humans, it makes up for with some of the most grand special effects for the most original of sci-fi tales (even if it is based on a comic book). In the future, the International Space Station expands from a scientific hub of Earth’s nationalities to a society of other galaxies and races. The station continues to expand until it’s so large that it must leave Earth and become its own city of sorts. In its current state, the station occupies thousands of different aliens that all contribute for the betterment of the galaxy.

Besson makes sure we get to see as much of this city as possible, past the typical military bridges and towering skyscrapers we’ve seen in dozens of other sci-fi pictures. There’s a robot collective that runs all the information technology and banking among towering servers that are constantly monitored and repaired. Delicate fish-like creatures develop all sorts of living cells that could cure just about anything. As utopian as that sounds, I like how Besson never makes this colony that simple or peaceful. The collective districts of this environment exist as separate nations with their own laws and economy. With the human sector suffering an economic depression, the stern Commander Arün Filitt (Clive Owen) seeks a means of restoring their government’s strength with some shady decisions made behind the scenes.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Interesting designs abound in ‘Valerian.’

His plan involves an alien race that is given the most stunning of introductions. The creatures, with their bald, tall and thin figures, occupy a world that thrives on magical spheres that emit energy and light up their skin. Their planet is decimated during some battle and now they’ve gone on the offensive in the shadows. Their philosophy isn’t too different from most aliens that approach their lives with a tranquil oneness with nature, but they’re presented in more detail than you usually get out of sci-fi pulp.

But, wait, where are Valerian and Laureline in all this? They’re along for the ride, but are more or less vessels in how their chemistry is lacking for a couple that hasn’t quite decided on getting married. The scenes they occupy are amazing, however, as in the opening heist on a desert commerce planet. Tourists wander around an empty space with virtual reality goggles that allow them to interact with another dimension. Valerian and Laureline are able to infiltrate this dimension with an elaborate scheme of matter-shifting boxes, floating guns, mind-hacked guards and a hover-bus.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Valerian and Laureline may be boring, but at least they do cool stuff.

Another pleasant detour occurs inside the Thousand Planet city where the duo must best a society of doltish aliens that want to eat Laureline’s brain for lunch. When the two find themselves apart, they resort to great lengths of seeking a memory-displaying jellyfish to find each other. Nothing says “I love you” like shoving your face into a jellyfish’s butt to find your lover.

Read more for the rest of the Valerian movie review:

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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