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Cameron H.

Episode 237 — Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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Doug Benson of Doug Loves Movies joins Paul, Jason and guest co-host Jessica St. Clair to discuss the 2017 science fiction film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Recorded live at the Theatre at Ace Hotel for Pee Cast Blast ’17, they cover everything from Rihanna as Bubble, a shapeshifting alien entertainer to the movie resetting itself every 15 minutes.
 
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At the live show this question for the panel came to me right as Paul was leaving the audience:  Can you describe how you felt when you saw that the movie ends with the "To my father..."?  Because for me I think I experienced an emotion that I have never felt before or since.  It was like horror, embarrassment, bafflement, and thinking it was sweet all occurring at the exact same time.

I stupidly re-watched this movie ahead of listening to this episode and this time it occurred to me how stupid it is when they show the planets' locations by what constellation they are in.  Constellations have no meaning whatsoever for locating something in space the various stars that make up a constellation are likely thousands of light years apart from each other and that a constellation has any meaning at all depends on where you are observing it from so the stars line up to form a vague shape.  Then to make it even worse they give the constellations scientific sounding names like JR24.  The whole point of a constellation is it happens to look like something you can name.  If our ancestors hadn't been extremely bored I don't think we'd even have the concept of a constellation today.

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3 hours ago, ChunkStyle said:

 Constellations have no meaning whatsoever for locating something in space the various stars that make up a constellation are likely thousands of light years apart from each other and that a constellation has any meaning at all depends on where you are observing it from so the stars line up to form a vague shape...  If our ancestors hadn't been extremely bored I don't think we'd even have the concept of a constellation today.

True, but they are were very helpful if you wanted to locate yourself on Earth, and to know where Earth was relating to the Sun, ie, the changing of the seasons. It wasn't something that came out of boredom, it actually is pretty amazing that several different cultures thousands of miles apart from each other developed similar concepts and similar ways for dealing with the same problems. 

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Before this movie was announced i had never heard of the OG comics, which is strange because i guess there must have been something that was innately French about them that was somehow lost in translation? I read through Asterix, Tintin, The Smurfs, Michell Vaillant, Marsupilami, Gaston ( guys, Gaston had a " pet " seagull that he brought to work with him, plus his CAT. Imagine the nightmare it must have been for his cartoon coworkers high jinks ). Valerian? I don't know her. But from what i gathered from the internets, Valerian himself wasn't an emo tween that moped his way out of an audition for Twilight ( cough cough DaneDehaan cough ), he was kinda of a stereotypical French blowhard. Which means that Pauls sugestion of Sam Rockwell would have been GREAT. The real Valerian is basically his character from Galaxy Quest, but competent. 

And FYI, like Doug noted, the comic is named Valerian AND Laureline, because even though she starts out as a " maiden in distress " type character ( From the middle ages? I guess time travel is possible, it's a comic ), she grows as a person and becomes Valerians equal, so Jean Lucs decision to remove her from the films title, and to pepper the film with " jokes " about women ( A wimminz drivers joke? Seriously dude ) just speaks volumes about him as a person.

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I liked the " shaking hands " montage. I cringed when i heard space Oddity, how fuck!ng dare you Jean Luc, but the montage itself is actually kinda moving with the sound off.

And the " running through the biospheres " montage is amazing. It's like a glimpse into all of the movies that could have been, and all we got was this lousy sh!t pearl. 

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In the episode they talk about how Ethan Hawk and Rhianna's business doesn't make sense if no money is exchanged at the start. See that's the only part of it that does make sense. Ethan Hawk takes Valerian's gun and sends it to the ceiling where there are a dozen or so guns yet the place is empty with no customers. Valerian tries to bring up money but Ethan Hawk tells him just enjoy the show. Put those things together and clearly they are killing or stealing from the people they dupe to coming in. That's also why as soon as Ethan Hawk is done playing the piano he starts to drink and says "I can't do this anymore" The mental and emotional toll of killing chumps is riding high on him. That makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is Rhianna's show. So Bubble is an alien than can look and sound like anyone of anything. This is perfect for the adult industry. Whatever your dark dirty secret is this alien can be it. Want to hook up with an old flame? Can do. Want to sleep with your sister? Can do. Want to try a different gender or race? Check and check. That's the point of that race and why they're in that line of work. So if they can be anything and that's why you are seeking them out, how does a bunch of different costumes draw you in? I don't want to hook up with a shape shifter because it can look like a nurse and then immediately look like Liza from Cabaret. No. I want to hook up with them because who and what they can be.

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Right away I knew were in for it. Damn, that shaking hands scene. Triggered due to our current moment, but also because I wondered-- why are these guys such terrible diplomats? Don't roll your eyes when the Japanese guests bow at you, even though apparently they're the ONLY group of people in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE that doesn't shake hands. Or is every alien race diplomatic enough to learn about Western earth culture, but we don't have to greet visitors by learning how they express greetings? I guess we shouldn't be surprised with all the implicit sexism that also didn't change for 800 years. Not just in leaving out Lauraleen in the title or the "wait in the lobby" moments but with all of the "be a man" or "oh, surprised that a little girl can do this?" kind of dialogue throughout. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Microagressions. 

So, yeah, the shaking hands thing --- gratuitous, yes, but, if you connect it to the pivotal backstory about whatever war it was that wiped out planet Mul, the movie seems to suggest that all is not well in future paradise. Humans may have joined the galaxy at some point (the opening montage) but it didn't go very well and resulted in, literally, untold violence (the planet destruction) and currently the situation remains uneasy and delicate (the United Human Federation, or UHF -- best pronounced in a Jason Manzoukis voice.) If only that was a bit more, I dunno, clear and/or prominent or whatever, it would help fit a lot of the elements together, from the ways the areas of Thousand-world-city interact to the way Valerian is motivated as a peacekeeper. Maybe this is more richly in the original material?       

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3 hours ago, Cam Bert said:

What doesn't make sense is Rhianna's show. So Bubble is an alien than can look and sound like anyone of anything. This is perfect for the adult industry. Whatever your dark dirty secret is this alien can be it. Want to hook up with an old flame? Can do. Want to sleep with your sister? Can do. Want to try a different gender or race? Check and check. That's the point of that race and why they're in that line of work. So if they can be anything and that's why you are seeking them out, how does a bunch of different costumes draw you in? I don't want to hook up with a shape shifter because it can look like a nurse and then immediately look like Liza from Cabaret. No. I want to hook up with them because who and what they can be.

Add to that, did anyone really think that Bubble had died? She's a shapechanger, whose WHOLE shtick was that she was the "best actor ever." I kept waiting for her return at some climactic point, especially when there was such a big deal about whether or not DNA could identify who was speaking--- I kept thinking the heroes would be saved in the end by a last-second Bubble reappearance. I mean, there's enough weakness in the plot that a Bubble Ex Machina wouldn't be any more of a sin. Or -- what if Bubble faked her death then secretly switched places with Valerian right after the trash chute escape? That means the last third of the movie was really Rihanna saving the day, and I'm ok with that.  

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Am I the only one that finds the very existence of Alpha to be depressing?  I mean we start out with a space station that is meant to bring about harmony among nations and when it gets too big we just jettison it and all of its inhabitants out into deep space with no hope of ever returning.  Is there no need to keep the scientists and engineers that would be occupying such a station around or was it serving no direct purpose at all?

Second, as beautiful as the planet Mul was, there is clearly a horrifying monster species living on that world.  Giant seashells don't exist without giant mollusks to produce them.  With very little vegetation, there must be carnivorous snails weighing several tons roaming around in search for food.

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I find the existence of this movie to be depressing 

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We're all in agreement that there was a Jessica Rabbit space-prostitute in this film, right?

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The movie is mostly based on the volume 6 of the series, Ambassador of Shadow; the multi-dimensional black market seems to be Luc Besson’s own invention.

 

Major differences between the movie and the original comic book:

 

1.      The “city of 1000 planets” is called Point Central in the comic. It’s not made of a human space station. Rather, it’s like an accumulation of various space vessels and constructions, built on top of and next to each other, by various alien races gradually over time.

2.      Clive Owen’s character is actually the ambassador of Earth in the comic. Before he got kidnapped, he’s about to give a speech to the members of the council of Point Central; this is the first time Earth is giving a turn to preside over the council.

3.      Valérian and Laureline are not just space cops; they are space AND time cops. They travelled through space and time to fight the bad guys.

4.      Laureline is actually a peasant girl from 11th century France whom Valerian meets during a time travelling mission to capture a mad scientist from the future in volume 1. At one point, Laureline gets turned into a unicorn by the said mad scientist. And because unicorns can read mind, she discovers Valerian’s true identity, so he has no choice but to take her along to the future. And she gets all the necessary training with a zap from a “mnemonic machine.” So no “school,” I guess.      

5.      Valérian actually does very little in the original story. He gets captured while trying to rescue the ambassador and gets taken along. So, it is up to Laureline to do the rescuing. Teaming up with a mousy colonel (the ambassador’s assistant, who also does very little,) she travels throughout this “city” searching for Valerian and the ambassador.

6.      The red-light districts scene is very tame and different from the movie. No Jessica Rabbit. There is more than one “Bubble.” Instead of doing a sexy shapeshifter nurse dance sequence, they turn into tunic-wearing human hunks and try to seduce Laureline. And no, the shape-shifter doesn’t get killed for helping Laureline. Also, no Ethan Hawke

7.      The Mul aliens do not kidnaps the ambassador in the comic; they hire mercenaries of another race to do the job. And they are not from the planet Mul, and are not “in-one-with-nature.” Rather, they are an ancient race of beings who not only constructed the foundation for Point Central, but are also so powerful that they have mastered over physical matters. They’re called themselves “Shadow,” as they no longer have a physical body.

8.      The Earth ambassador originally plans to take over Point Central with a fleet of spaceships. The Shadows, however, don’t want Point Central to be run solely by one race of people. So they threaten to blow up the Earth’s armada by summoning black-holes. Then they take him, together with Valerian, to what seems like a hut, called the House of Wisdom. We never see what happens inside the hut. But after the ambassador comes out of the hut, he seems changed and decides to pursuit a policy of peace. After he finally goes in front of the council to make his speech, we’re told that another race of alien, called Zools, who are responsible for maintaining Point Central, have begun to takes over the place, because they are sick of corruption on Point Central and want to drive out the profiteers. Then the ambassador emerged from the council and said that not only the council didn’t give him the opportunity to make the speech, they also decided to banish the Earth government from Point Central for 100 years.

9.      Valérian and Laureline are very much in love at the start of this story. They do kisses and hugs, but no wrestle.                         

 

 

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2 hours ago, the baa detective said:

Valérian actually does very little in the original story. He gets captured while trying to rescue the ambassador and gets taken along. So, it is up to Laureline to do the rescuing. Teaming up with a mousy colonel (the ambassador’s assistant, who also does very little,) she travels throughout this

... I need to read this now.

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I remember seeing the trailer for this movie and thinking that the leads were supposed to be related instead of love interests. Maybe its "attractiveness bias," but Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevingne (who are, in their defense, very attractive), look like they could be siblings. In this movie, they have zero on-screen chemistry and come across more like and antagonistic and quarreling fraternal brother and sister.

The movie falls flat for me because of Dehaan's character especially, who is supposed to be this roguish Han Solo type, but doesn't really look or act like he has the years of experience behind him performing this insanely dangerous line of work. Han Solo, Indiana Jones, James Bond: I believe that these guys have seen some shit and shrug it off with a rye comment and a smirk to stave-off the gravity of what they've been through. However, just like in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (another dumpster fire that HDTGM definitely needs to cover), Dehaan comes across in this film like an immature fancy lad pretending to be an adult, rather than the scruffy, hard-scrabble rule-abiding-rule-breaker he's supposed to be.

They may be long in the tooth for it now, but Clive Owen could have played Valerian, with Eva Green playing Laureline. Just a thought.

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What the "Mul" alien or the "Shadow" actually looks like in the book. Notice how they don't look as supermodel-y or Na'vi -y as in the movie. Although the author still gave them a kind of stereotypical traditional African dress and look

alien.jpg

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On 4/11/2020 at 12:05 PM, DannytheWall said:

Right away I knew were in for it. Damn, that shaking hands scene. Triggered due to our current moment, but also because I wondered-- why are these guys such terrible diplomats? Don't roll your eyes when the Japanese guests bow at you, even though apparently they're the ONLY group of people in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE that doesn't shake hands. Or is every alien race diplomatic enough to learn about Western earth culture, but we don't have to greet visitors by learning how they express greetings? I guess we shouldn't be surprised with all the implicit sexism that also didn't change for 800 years. Not just in leaving out Lauraleen in the title or the "wait in the lobby" moments but with all of the "be a man" or "oh, surprised that a little girl can do this?" kind of dialogue throughout. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Microagressions. 

To me the weirdest thing is why is Japan so late to the party? The commander gets older and older in each meeting implying that this is going on over the course of his life and the Japanese are the last while China is the first. Japan was in space before China. The first Japanese person in space was in 1990 and they went aboard MIR since then they've had a steady stream of astronauts and worked on the International Space Station. China's first astronaut wasn't until 2004 or so. While they're working on their own space station Japan has continued involvement with the international space community. So why is it that doesn't come along until the very end of the commander's life? China is another country with a history of bowing and not shaking and yet they start off with a full embrace? Wouldn't it make more sense for a bowing/shaking mix-up to be the first interaction from a story point of view thus setting up that everybody shakes regardless of race, gender or species?

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There's probably some way to combine Avatar and the Nav'i with the Valerian universe, but also another --- Men in Black. After all, maybe the reason that those pearls are full of energy is that there are tiny universes inside each one. Does this mean that it's possible our own universe is the result of some alien poop? Actually, that might explain a lot.  

 

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On 4/11/2020 at 11:12 PM, E.Lerner said:

We're all in agreement that there was a Jessica Rabbit space-prostitute in this film, right?

For some reason I missed that in the scene, but I did catch in the credits "Jessica Rabbit Creature", so yes. You're definitely right.  

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What I found crazy was the Batman '66 levels of specificity in some of the gadgets that are employed during the course of the movie. Like, I get always being prepared, but at times, the movie takes it to almost ludicrous levels. Val and Lor appear to have access to technology that is able to somehow detect and counteract technologies more advanced than their own while also being able to easily identify aberrant alien metaphysics. For instance, I get how having a computer being able to recount your dreams might be useful (in a New Age-y bullshit kind of way), but how exactly would the computer be able to tell him that dream was externally imposed upon him if the entire concept of soul grafting onto husky-voiced Bang Boyz is a completely foreign concept? I mean, computers can be pretty impressive, but that still can't do anything we don't program them to do. How would they even begin to program for an eventuality, that for them, is, at best, hypothetical?

Likewise, Val uses his spider re-breather device to protect himself from the Mul's jizz guns, but afterward, they make it clear that they've never encountered weapons like their bukake blasters before. So, if this is a totally unknown weapon, why would he even have something like that? I mean, I get the time you want a mouth activated spider slicer isn't the time you need a mouth activated spider slicer, but still, I can't help feeling like the R&D teams of the future are putting the cart before the horse a bit.       

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On 4/10/2020 at 7:11 PM, Cam Bert said:

In the episode they talk about how Ethan Hawk and Rhianna's business doesn't make sense if no money is exchanged at the start. See that's the only part of it that does make sense. Ethan Hawk takes Valerian's gun and sends it to the ceiling where there are a dozen or so guns yet the place is empty with no customers. Valerian tries to bring up money but Ethan Hawk tells him just enjoy the show. Put those things together and clearly they are killing or stealing from the people they dupe to coming in. That's also why as soon as Ethan Hawk is done playing the piano he starts to drink and says "I can't do this anymore" The mental and emotional toll of killing chumps is riding high on him. That makes sense.

In defense of the movie (Ugh!), I don't think the idea was that money would never be exchanged. I think Bubble's performance was a negotiating tactic. That is, they weren't going to talk money until after you see what she can do. She's probably SUPER expensive, but if he gave her price upfront, the John might not be willing to pay. But if the John sees what she's capable of, and all of the debauched possibilities you suggest, then they might be more willing to pay the price. 

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1 hour ago, Cameron H. said:

In defense of the movie (ugh!), I don't think the idea was that money would never be exchanged. I think Bubble's performance was a negotiating tactic. That is, they weren't going to talk money until after you see what she can do. She's probably SUPER expensive, but if he gave her price upfront, the John might not be willing to pay. But if the John sees what she's capable of, and all of the debauched possibilities you suggest, then they might be more willing to pay the price. 

To add on to this is the name of the club is the "Glam Club" and Valerian clearly knows what he wants. He tells him upfront "I'm looking for a Glamour Pod." For starters, the name of the club implies that's what they have though I will concede that Glam Club also sounds very brothel like in general. So clearly Valerian knows what a Glamour Pod is and if he knows what they are he must also know what they can do. So he's probably already looking to pay a lot. I agree that the flat out price might seem high and scare them off, but again if the client knows what they're looking for I don't see what in that performance there was to sell him on. It's like going to a home center and saying "I want a blender" because you want to make smoothies. The salesman winks and you and tell you to comer over and look at what he has. They take you over and show you one blender that's matte blue. Then they show you how nice it looks in matte green paint. Then a matte black and finally a matte red. How are these colours going to help me sell me on the blender when I came there to buy one anyway. I just want to know which one will handle frozen fruits the best and don't care about the colours it comes in. Now if Ethan Hawk had different Glamor Pods and was showing off what ones could do over the other I could see the need to pitch him or sell him on something. I guess following through with your (most likely correct) idea the show was suppose to wow him so much he just forks over cash. What if he hears the new price and is like "Eh, that's still to high?" You just put on a whole number for a guy for free to have him walk away. Bad business plan. 

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2 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

Likewise, Val uses his spider re-breather device to protect himself from the Mul's jizz guns, but afterward, they make it clear that they've never encountered weapons like their bukake blasters before. So, if this is a totally unknown weapon, why would he even have something like that? I mean, I get the time you want a mouth activated spider slicer isn't the time you need a mouth activated spider slicer, but still, I can't help feeling like the R&D teams of the future are putting the cart before the horse a bit.       

The bukkake blasters puzzled me as well because I guess the idea was to be non-lethal but in reality they are a far more cruel weapon than a regular gun. Think about it. The only reason Valerian survived was because he had the breather and the spider bot. He saved Laureline because he was fast enough to cut her out. So what about the other people? Do they just slowly suffocate to death in this jizz? A regular space blaster, boom you dead. Bukkake blaster, coat you in jizz (which I can only imagine smells just wrong) and you slowly suffocate to death. That's just cruel. 

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14 minutes ago, Cam Bert said:

I just want to know which one will handle frozen fruits

You’re a kinky boy ;) 

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