I tried to see Girls Trip, nicknamed the black version of Rough Night. The difference is blaringly obvious: Girls Trip got rave reviews. Unfortunately, Girls Trip was sold out in 3 theatres that I searched! Good on Girl’s Trip, but what should I see now? Why not Valerian and the City of 1000 Planets?
I’ll tell you why the hell not.
I was so ready for Valerian. I like Rihanna, and I wanted to see her redeem herself from Battleship. I had no idea who the hell else was in the movie. No matter. A sci-fi visual stimulant would do me well.
The film starts in 2020 on two space stations in earth’s orbit that are merging. A team of Russian astronauts greet a team of Chinese astronauts. This leads to a montage of astronauts from different countries greeting each other. Vague Arabian astronauts, Indian or Pakistani astronauts, Probably South American or Central American astronauts. Some-Place-in-Africa astronauts…I thought, “Oh shit. This movie is going to be diverse AF!” That is about as diverse as the film gets until Rihanna. The “astronauts” then start looking otherworldly. The welcome committee shake hands with so many CGI aliens, I wondered if they blew their budget on the first five minutes. Then there is a voice-over that says that the space station is so big that it is going to crash into the earth, so they’re going to put booster rockets on it and let it flow into some slipstream in space, not necessarily knowing where they’re going. To put that in perspective, imagine a trailer park on a hill where the residents decided to stack and bolt their homes together, and then when the land owner raises the plot fees, they all decide to remove the wheel chock and let the whole damn thing roll wherever. What could possibly go wrong?
Next scene depicts a bunch of wispy sexy beach Navi. They don’t speak English, they were essentially wearing nothing but loin cloths, and they have that feel of being “primitive but noble”. They are the pretty African/South American/Polynesians of the galaxy. Focus is on one particular obviously female beach Navi who starts her day by hopping off her giant marshmallow of a bed, petting some weird Pokemon rat-cat, and skipping around town flirting with a pearl fisher and being friendly to everyone she sees. I half expected someone to say in their alien language, “Mentos: The Fresh Maker”. In lieu of a mint ad, she feeds a giant pearl to her rat-cat, and it immediately shits a thousand pearls out of every pore of his little body, into what looks like a well. Everyone is cool with this, so I guess his pearl shits aren’t toxic. Suddenly, a dark cloud and a fire ball appear in the sky. More fireballs appear, desending on this wispy paradise. They are all going to die. The main female beach Navi is apparently a princess, and she was so busy skipping around town that when the rest of the Beach Navi hunkered down in a bunker, she doesn’t make it in time to get there, and her parents have to watch her get vaporized.
Are you confused yet? Are those giant pearls the eponymous Valerian? Will James Cameron sue for the obvious Avatar rip-off, which is an obvious Ferngully rip-off, which is an obvious Dances with Wolves rip-off, which is an obvious Black Like Me rip-off?
You should be confused, and no, those pearls aren’t Valerian, and the lawsuit may still loom. Valerian is Valerian, and Valerian is a human piece of cardboard who is in the space CIA. He has a colleague/girlfriend who is also made of cardboard named Laureline. You don’t realize that they are in a long term relationship until about halfway through the movie. At first, you just think he’s just trying to smash. Their introduction felt like there was a whole TV series prior to this film, and we should have known how tight they are already. The chemistry between Valerian and Laureline is comprised of inert gases. For the rest of the movie, they are assigned to steal the last Pokemon rat-cat and figure out what anomaly seems to be consuming the adrift space station, or the CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS!!! Shenanigans ensue. Valerian and Laureline basically take turns saving each other’s asses from increasingly fatally calamitous situations. One of the larger calamities is when Laureline is captured by weird frog-slug monsters who intend to feed her alive to their king. Valerian enlists the help of a shapeshifting pole dancer, who happens to be Rihanna. They go to the frog-slug monster headquarters and beat the shit out of them for a little bit. Laureline, Valerian, and shapeshifting Rihanna escape imminent peril by jumping down a garbage chute. Valerian and Laureline, with very breakable bones, come out unscathed. Rihanna, the shapeshifting alien with no bones, who can contort her body into any form she wants, dies, but not before ensuring the couple that it’s fine that she dies, because on her planet, living is like hell. They killed Rihanna in a pile of garbage, and they gave her a garbage line.
The rest of the movie is basically more space shenanigans, you find out one of the leaders of the space CIA was covering up the fact that their organization is responsible for the death of the Beach Navi. There was a battle, and the debris from the battle was the fireballs that destroyed their planet surface. The surviving Beach Navi are the source of the anomaly in the ship, and they need the rat-cat to shit out pearls (which apparently are an energy source) to fuel their ship and they can find a new homeland. Also, I guess Valerian and Laureline get engaged or something.
I would like to say I liked this movie. I really would. It was definitely about two hours. I have so many feelings about this movie. They killed Rihanna in a pile of garbage. The movie is based on a 1960s French comic called Valerian et Laureline, so why wasn’t the movie called “Valerian and Laureline”? they spent equal times saving each other from shenanigans! They killed Rihanna in a pile of garbage. The diversity in the film pretty much ended after the space station merger montage. After that, the movie was mostly white guys and CGI aliens. One of the few people of color, Rihanna, they killed in a pile of garbage. I don’t mind a little bit of kitschy dialogue, but man…wooden AND kitschy? It shouldn’t have taken me that long to figure out that V and L regularly touch D and P! They also killed Rihanna in a pile of garbage.It would have been nice to get more development of all the wird alien worlds that were in the city beyond a bunch of stylized Chinatown chase scenes. They. Killed. Rihanna. In. A. Pile. Of. GARBAGE.
With the right writers, this could have been a good, funny Netflix series. As a 2 hour movie, though, there is no time to explore the worlds and sentient species created without the movie looking like a 3D virtual ride at Disney World…with the exception of The Fifth Element. And Total Recall. And Mars Attacks. And Demolition Man.
Man, y’all killed Rihanna in a pile of garbage. Fuck y’all.
Biggest lesson I can take from watching this movie is that I should have gone to the late show for Girls Trip.