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Film Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

“It’s Our Mission That Doesn’t Make Sense, Sir…”

With French filmmaker Luc Besson not succeeding in making a decent movie since the 1990’s when it comes to directing, the array of fingers which he has managed to stick into a wide range of cinematic pies including The Transporter and Taken series, means that particular film companies still feel the need to finance certain projects which stem from the mind of a man who continues to live off the success of his earlier and much more impressive bodies of work, of which Nikita and Léon still remain the standout features. With his latest release of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets this week, aside from having arguably the most arduous and stupidest film title in recent memory, Besson’s return to science fiction brings with it a relative amount of caution, particularly when the finished product could either be the silly, blockbuster fun of The Fifth Element or the idiotic, laziness of a film such as Lucy, and whilst there is no doubting that Valerian is filled to the rafters with a mountain of issues and quandaries, Besson’s latest is the type of movie which you begin to hate from the outset but then slowly edge through acceptance, excitement and enjoyment as the film reaches its’ long-awaited conclusion. Valerian is stupid, nonsensical and completely bonkers, but boy, I didn’t half enjoy it.

Although the screenplay is primarily based upon the French science fiction comic series, Valérian and Laureline, there is no doubting the visual splendour of the film takes cues from a wide variety of movies from fantasy cinematic history, and whilst it comes across as lazy to simply paint Valerian as a Star Wars rip-off, the sandy plains of the opening act and the introduction of characters that so clearly resemble famous faces from a galaxy far, far away is strikingly undeniable, even when the film effectively manages to be designed in such a superbly crafted fashion it’s impossible to not applaud the creative process behind it. With the visuals so flashy and impressively detailed, the cheddar-cheese dialogue and questionable acting does manage to be somewhat overlooked, even when Cara Delevingne manages to act almost everyone off the screen including leading co-star Dane DeHaan whose montone affinity results in him coming across as a next-generation Keanu Reeves cast-off, and with a narrative as bonkers and fundamentally confusing as the one at the centre of it, Valerian is that rare case of a movie being so wrong it’s right, and whilst I may be in the minority when the dust eventually settles, Besson’s latest isn’t a masterpiece by any measure, it’s just ridiculous, braindead fun.

Overall Score: 6/10

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Film Review: Suicide Squad

“Seriously, What The Hell Is Wrong With You People…?”

Whilst we bask in the sweltering heat of the British summer, where anything over 10 degrees celsius encourages everyone to take their tops off and bathe in layers upon layers of sun protector, there still remains the favoured few who would much rather sink into the dark, cool surroundings of the cinema and escape into the minds of filmmakers for two hours or so, away from the pain-inducing sight of the sun and away from the sweaty masses of the general public and vast displays of chest hair. Anyhow, with Batman v Superman still sitting in my mind as perhaps one of the biggest cinematic comic flops of recent years (Fantastic Four included) the DC Extended Universe rolls on and this week gives us the hotly anticipated Suicide Squad, yeah, that’s right, that film with the strange looking Joker and the one that has been plastered on every single screen for about two months continuously in some Nazi-esque propaganda fashion in order to not allow us to go without seeing some form of advertisement for at least 24 hours. With Batman v Superman still ringing through my mind like a hot poker, surely Suicide Squad is exceedingly better? Well, sort of, but not much, with Suicide Squad being a much more enjoyable experience in some sense but one that still contains a rafter of issues, some of which bear similarities to Batman v Superman and some that are brought upon itself from the latest offering of DC live-action mehness.

If you’re finely tuned into the world of comics, surely everyone is aware of the notion of the Suicide Squad in some form or the other. Although not strictly a fan of the literature form of such, I was first introduced to the team within Arrow in which we see one of the first live-action portrayals in one measly episode which gave the run-down on what the SS do and simply, how they do it. Now hitting the big time, the first major live-action display of the SS has been helmed by David Ayer, writer of the Oscar winning Training Day and director of movies such as End of Watch and Fury. So in terms of directorial choice, you would think Ayer would be the correct choice; a director attributed to dark, nihilistic action movies with a knack of not being swayed by the aspect of the twisted sense of togetherness of a team through sins of violence and crime, yet too many times through the film it felt as if we were back in the land of Zak Snyder. Limited characterisation followed by action set pieces with unbelievably cringey dialogue and a final act in which laughable CGI is meant to make the film include some sense of epic conclusion. Does it work? Not at all, yet the fault cannot be left solely at the feet of Ayer, with studio interference surely playing a part somehow. I mean a film this messy cannot be made without prodding and poking from a range of different areas, no more so than those throwing the money at it in order to see it succeed in one way or another.

So we’ve established problems with Suicide Squad that have been seen in previous DC Universe entries, yet one major problem that was extremely evident that I cannot say to have seen before is the unforgivable crass nature of the treatment of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in the movie. Although Robbie herself is one of the few saving graces of the movie, with her kooky, crazy and yet sympathetic portrayal giving the first cinematic appearance of the character some form of justice, the way in which she is portrayed and wooed upon through costume design and camera angles is downright creepy. I can understand that the fundamentals of the character within the comics is one of a femme fetale nature, but to portray her in this fashion is just wrong on so many levels. Adding to the displeasure of the film is Jared Leto’s Joker, a character in which had so much exposure over the films’ tiresome advertisement campaign and then ultimately is in the film no more than five minutes, a decision so utterly stupid giving how much anticipation there was for the character that you don’t even get a full sense of Leto’s portrayal. Because of which, the jury is out when it comes to Leto. Who knows, if we get more than 5 minutes with him next time maybe he will be the definitive Joker? Doubt it.

Overall, Suicide Squad is a slightly more enjoyable DC flick than Batman v Superman, but one that still has a wide range of problems inherent in the extended universe so far. Although Robbie is the standout, Smith also gives a good interpretation of Floyd Lawton/Deadshot, yet acting talent alone cannot prevent Suicide Squad from being yet another achingly poor showing from Warner Bros. With a soundtrack so bipolar following throughout and a sense of absence when it comes to a directorial stamping, Suicide Squad may indeed do well at the box office like its’ predecessors, but it still isn’t the film I, and probably many others, were indeed looking for. Marvel, it’s your batting next. Cumberbatch is calling.

Overall Score: 4/10