Much like with complex carbs, I have a love/hate/hate relationship with Luc Besson (though breadsticks never made me spiral into narcoleptic levels of boredom so hard it ripped a hole in the space/time continuum causing the latest Kardashian lip kit to fall out, so it’s Luc Besson: 0, Breadsticks: 1). But wait! Through yonder computer screen sarcasm and snark break! It is yours truly, Felix Felicis (Celebrity Naptime Consultant) and Hawk Ripjaw (Professional Pool Party Extra To The Stars) ugly crying into our space beers this go ’round so that you, our booziest, most devotediest readers, won’t have to in a very special Felix-Ripjaw Debate Presents: Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Shits, Wait, Planets. This year we’ve mocked harder (Fifty Shades Darker) died inside faster (Transformers: The Last Knight) and came out the other side covered in questionable amounts of buttered popcorn and salty self-loathing (The Book Of Henry).
She Said: So this wasn’t a planned Debate movie with Hawk like we usually do (having dibbsed in perpetuity any and all Fifty Shades and Transformer movies due to guaranteed levels of mock-worthy shittiness) but the absolutely bugfuck-crazy brain baby Luc Besson just foisted off onto the world in the form of Valerian had me send up the Batsignal to the only other person who could help me deal with this and the resulting cinematic PTSD. With this review, Hawk, WE WILL CURE THE WORLD SHORTAGE OF SALT.
He Said: IODIZE EVERYTHING.
She Said: NO EARTH LEFT UNSEASONED.
He Said: That’s ironic, considering Valerian itself was bland as fuck.
She Said: I’m not even sure where to begin breaking down this clusterfuck of logistical blackholes and hot mess of impossible contradictions. I tried describing Valerian to a friend the other day it it LITERALLY TOOK ME AN HOUR TO FIND A FUCKING THROUGHLINE TO THE NARRATIVE I HAVEN’T BEEN THIS MAD SINCE INTERSTELLAR… WAIT… OH MY GOD, WAIT… IN… INTERSTELLAR… INTERSTELLAR WAS BETTER THAN THIS.
He Said: Crying in the shower is such great cardio, though.
She Said: Holy shit Valerian just reset my baseline for “bad”. I don’t know if I can handle the cognitive dissonance of this movie and the cult classic that is Fifth Element coming from the same man.
He Said: Even after I primed myself with pure undiluted hatred for Lucy, I couldn’t really prepare for this.
She Said: Okay, so best effort to describe Valerian starts with a music montage (set to Bowie’s “Space Oddity”-irony at it’s finest right there) of humanity lifting off from Planet Earth with an international (and eventually intergalactic) lego connector of a space station. We’re all best friends in space! Which is unlikely considering I can’t even handle a week long road trip in a car with friends before bloodbaths ensue, but sure, e’erbody hugs it out en space.
She Said: It was all downhill from here.
He Said: Forget the hill, this is a fucking freefall.
She Said: But wait! Space Buddies Space Station “Alpha” (sadly Valerian was lacking in anything resembling basketball-playing Golden Retrievers) is in jeopardy of squishing earthlings now that it’s reached maximum weightyness orbiting our galactic bit’o’blue. So Earth basically #ByeFelicia’s the whole shebang by shoving Alpha out into a space river to float away like a less interesting Star Trek rebootquel.
He Said: The Earth Federation must be run by our current administration.
She Said: This is where I begin to lose track of the sequence of events due to extreme lack-of-fucks-given.
He Said: By far the most interesting part of the movie for me was trying to remember Ethan Hawke’s name when his character showed up.
She Said: I can only assume my long term memory is rejecting Valerian like a failed organ transplant to protect my last functioning brain cell which is on life support after this shitshow ran it over with a mediocre Mack Truck.
He Said: Tell me what you need me to do. I’ll fucking do it. Who do I need to kill-
She Said: Don’t pull the plug until you’re SURE I don’t respond to Channing Tatum’s abs anymore.
He Said: Well that’s way easier. I’ve got She’s The Man on stand-by.
She Said: So I’m pretty sure after the Space Buddies set sail our timeline jumps like three hundred years into the future and we see what I’m assuming a knockoff Avatar world would look like where an Alien race (the Pearl on planet Mul) embrace nature and feed their world with pearls tiny dragons poop out before being obliterated by a space beef in their atmosphere.
He Said: There’s no way drugs were not involved in the creation of that scene.
She Said: Mass-level, Serenity-like extinction events are, like, totes disruptive to getting a solid REM cycle in on a holo-beach, so we meet Dane DeHaan (60% of the time his face creeps me out every time) as Major Valerian waking up from a weird-as-shit nightmare (trying super hard to fit into the interstellar James Bondian box Valerian keeps desperately trying to shove him into) and human cardboard cutout, Cara Delevingne, as Sergeant Laureline doing what I can only assume is what passes as flirting between puppets.
He Said: You say that, but Muppets have more compelling character arcs, personalities, and relationships than these two did.
She Said: That’s fair. So then Valerian proposes marriage to his female subordinate with no good reason why other than basically “um, because?” and Laureline shuts him down (for now) as they get called into work as agents of “The Government” (in this 28th Century where that means you can literally do whatever you want with little to no oversight) to retrieve stolen (and re-stolen) property of Alpha, thus setting into motion the most extra-yet-basic-bitch sequence of cinematic events ever.
He Said: And yet they keep going back to the marriage conversation.
She Said: Like, think of every tired trope and/or SciFi cliche and Luc Besson manages to cram it into this cinematic CGI blender with what feels like a thousand angry mental bees before the credits roll on this narrative wasteland where dreams go to be thrown into a dumpster fire and die.
He Said: It doesn’t just throw your dreams into a dumpster fire, it forces you to stand there and watch them burn.
She Said: Did I miss anything? Hawk? I literally cannot even this movie anymore you try.
He Said: There’s a bearded submariner named Bob who accepts champagne as payment for services rendered?
She Said: If you’ve ever wanted to see Cara Delevingne shove her head up an intergalactic Jellyfish’s ass then HOO BOY HAVE I GOT THE MOVIE FOR YOU. Other than than, a nice case of Hep B would be preferable to watching Valerian and The City Of Like Five Alien Races We Actually See. Had a nice nap in the middle.
He Said: To be fair, as irritatingly on-the-nose as it is to have “Space Oddity” playing over a montage of Alpha being formed, that was a really cool, world-building montage that could have led to a much more interesting movie.
She Said: Now there’s always the possibility that I blacked out and missed something vital, but this was the most misogynistic bullshit I’ve seen hit the screen since Gigli (just kidding I didn’t need to watch that movie to know that YOU CAN’T SEX A LESBIAN STRAIGHT C’MON FOLK NOW GET YA HEADS OUT YA ASSES).
She Said: From what I can remember: there were no women in charge in this future government, it’s chill to sexually objectify and pursue romance with someone UNDER YOUR COMMAND and also sex trafficking is cool if it leads to an excuse for Rihanna do to a FUCKING STRIPTEASE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOVIE FOR NO LEGITIMATE REASON IS THIS A JOKE THIS IS A JOKE RIGHT WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK SERIOUSLY PEOPLE?!
He Said: I mean at least Rihanna was sort of a character, and it wasn’t like Star Trek: Into Darkness where the Admiral’s daughter, Carol, just stripped down to her undies for no reason. But then again, the scene in that movie didn’t last for THREE STRAIGHT MINUTES like it did here.
She Said: Oh and Major Valerian literally, LITERALLY, says to another male character “can we talk, man-to-man, for a minute” before leading the other guy away from his female partner to punch him because HAHAHAHAHAHA SILLY WOMEN AND THEIR SILLY VAGINAS AMIRITE, HAWK?!
He Said: HAHAHA IT’S ALMOST FUNNY BECAUSE LAURALINE HAS LITERALLY SPENT THE ENTIRE MOVIE AWAY FROM VALERIAN KICKING MORE ASS THAN HE EVER DOES! BUT ONCE THEY’RE BACK TOGETHER HE GETS CARTE BLANCHE TO PUSH HER AROUND!
She Said: Plus he eventually saves the day so you know bish up and agrees to marry him at the end (if you think that’s a spoiler with the way modern cinema defaults women to a marriage-seeking setting THEN HAVE I GOT A BRIDGE TO SELL YOU IN SPACE).
He Said: All I “learned” from that ending is that space jewelry apparently rectifies all misdeeds.
She Said: And speaking of spectacular fecal fuckwittery, I personally think it’s a daring choice for Besson to have outsourced his script to be ghostwritten by comatose yams.
He Said: I don’t know if I entirely agree with that analogy since even comatose yams still have some sort of nutritional value.
She Said: Really sells the shitacular ambiance I can only assume was his goal with lines like:
[Please note exact wording may not be precise due to extremely intoxicated transcription.]
Laureline: And why haven’t you wanted to get married until now?
Valerian: I’ve been looking for the perfect woman.
[RIGHT BECAUSE WE HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO BE LOVED UGHHHHH JUST UGHHHHH.]
Laureline: But you never stopped to LOOK.
[Agent Valerian steals something super rare from knockoff Jabba The Hut/Liam Neeson Impersonator]
Knockoff Jaba: I’ll find you, Agent Valerian, I’ll find you wherever you are in the universe and I’ll kill you.
Valerian: Good luck.
Government Leader: Agent Valerian, you’re running nearly twenty minutes late.
Valerian: Yeah, well, time flies when you’re-
DON’T YOU SAY IT
Valerian: -having fun.
He Said: Someone I was talking to about this movie put it extremely well: “What if this movie and Passengers swapped both leads?”
She Said: [eye starts twitching]
He Said: It’s indicative of the extreme miscasting of both DeHaan and Delevingne that this would actually be a good idea. Have you ever hoped to see Dane DeHaan as a rougish, swashbuckling space agent?
She Said: Is that a joke?
He Said: Or Cara Delevingne as a real human being with a personality?
She Said: Now I just know you’re fucking with me.
He Said: Or that these two could establish a realistic, fun rapport without sounding like rejected characters from an SNL sketch?
He Said: The answer for all three of these is “fuck you for being hopeful” because this movie is a gigantic mess of important characters that suck and minor characters that are sort of interesting, and none of them ever connect in any interesting way, unless it’s just to aggravate you with something you’ll never get.
She Said: So kind of like a tornado full of dicks that never ends? They just keep slapping you in the face forever?
He Said: That’s oddly specific yet accurate.
She Said: I’ve said too much.
He Said: But also kind of like when Channing Tatum speaks directly into a camera, but less soothing. Even more baffling, if you watch the behind-the-scenes footage of the pair, they have enough chemistry to power a space station.
She Said: That ten minute clip was still a better “movie” than Twilight and Valerian combined. I can only assume Luc Besson ran afoul of a gypsy curse or haunted fair grounds during the filming of Valerian and changed direction mid-stream to the Stunned Gopher School Of Facial Expressions For Lead Characters.
He Said: So why the hell does this movie go to hell and back to remove any semblance of believable connection between these characters? Why does it actively sabotage itself ?
He Said: A movie called Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets would presumably have a lot going on, and this does, but in all of the worst ways.
She Said: If you watch closely it’s like a Where’s Waldo of all Luc Besson’s earlier successes with film all jammed together in one, proving the point that too much of a good thing can kill you (or at least bore you into a waking coma).
He Said: There are so many awesome possibilities for this story, but Valerian uses every chance for innovation and freshness solely to disappoint. This shit is more boring than an episode of 2 Broke Girls.
She Said: Or all of Season 1 Breaking Bad.
He Said: Late into the film, I started to suspect that I had misread the running time as 3 hours and seventeen minutes instead of 2.
She Said: There’s a special circle in hell that just plays Valerian on a loop over and over and over and-
He Said: Turns out it was just over two hours, but the movie is so badly paced it feels like twice the actual running time.
She Said: I had time for a nice nap in the middle and still woke up with enough time to regret every choice I’ve made up to this point in my life that led to the purchase of a ticket for Valerian.
He Said: For every time you think there’s going to be an interesting plot beat, the movie just veers off into another boring, asinine direction.
She Said: I’m just gonna copy and paste that bad boy for the Drinking Game portion of the review.
He Said: Late into the movie there is a THIRTY MINUTE DETOUR in the plot for absolutely no reason that has literally no bearing on the plot whatsoever.
She Said: That was the longest con anyone’s ever run on Rihanna to get her to strip.
He Said: Basically, all of the cool ideas are spent in the first half hour, and from there the movie actively degrades into into a steadily more generic plot until it reaches a villainous “reveal” that is so obvious, and yet played up so much as a surprise, it’s hilarious.
She Said: The only way any of this was an actual surprise is if Valerian was the first movie you’ve ever seen in your life. And if the answer to that question is yes then you’re either a fetus or a pet rock from 1993.
She Said: I’m gonna go out on a limb here (stick with me this joke pays off) and say that Frankenstein’s Monster was stitched together more coherently than Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Dead Ends. GET IT. LIMB?!
He Said: Wow, this movie really did hurt you, didn’t it?
She Said: You’re not wrong. But I digress. Valerian had glimmers of an interesting idea combined with an almost Westworldian non-linear timeline (and failure to payoff that execution with enough of a reward that sitting though that clusterfuck of chaos was worth the eternal migraine you’ll get trying to explain it to someone else).
He Said: Come on, don’t do that to my Westworld. It doesn’t deserve that.
She Said: Unfortunately even the CGI in Valerian (which was actually done fairly well) was more distracting than anything else when placed as a backdrop to a scattered narrative and characters more two dimensional than the background scenery and/or dealer’s choice Jersey Shore cast member.
He Said: You know they’re doing a reunion show, right?
She Said: Buy a blender. Get two potatoes. Draw spacesuits on them. Toss in a popsicle stick named “plot” and hit puree. Stand there covered in mashed potatoes BECAUSE YOU FORGOT TO PUT A FUCKING LID ON IT AGAIN, LUC BESSON.
He Said: That might be one of my favorite things I’ve ever heard you say.
She Said: WHY DO YOU KEEP TRYING TO HURT US, LUC BESSON, WHY, LIKE FOR REALS WHY.
He Said: While eating dinner after the movie, I just couldn’t stop gazing off into the middle distance, wondering what’s still right in a world where this exists.
Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime someone says “Valerian”. Pace yourself.
Take a Sip: for every exposition dump, mention, or montage of the City of a Thousand Planets.
Do a Shot: each time Puff the Tiniest Dragon shits hella pearls, y’all.
Take a Drink: anytime you think there’s going to be an interesting plot beat and then the movie just fists the last of your will to live like the world’s most boring sock puppet.
Take a Drink: whenever Valerian tries to convince Laureline to marry him. Take Two: anytime she shuts him down.
Shotgun Your Beer: if you make it to the credits fully conscious (no naps).