Rambling Review: Valerian

Valerian

I have a soft spot for Luc Besson’s films.  La Femme Nikita was my introduction to his work (thankfully, the intro was a good one), because there’s been the occasional let down, and yet I still get excited when I see his name attached.  Which is why I had high hopes for his latest project, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, aka France’s most expensive movie ever made, by a lot.

There was a lot of press on this film surrounding its release, and I remember Luc being unhappy with the state of the film industry at the time.  Other comic book stories translated to the screen had been dominating the scene, with some of them being overwhelmingly well received, while his comic book tale fell flat.  He felt his movie didn’t get its rightful due, not taking into consideration that maybe his film just wasn’t that good.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful to watch, but that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) compensate for a lack of story and boring characters.  I mean, when the lifeless portrayal of a shape shifting alien, played by Rihanna is one of the best performances, that’s saying something.  Because the movie is based on a comic series, I’m sure there were other stories to choose from, so I have to wonder, why did he choose this one?

Valerian offered us a glimpse into an amazing world, but the lack of a compelling introduction and the lack of interesting lead characters had me contemplating turning it off within the first 15 minutes, but I believed, and hoped, that sticking it out would lead to a satisfying end.  It did not.

Major Valerian played by Dane DeHaan and his partner Sergeant Laureline played by Cara Delevingne are basically special ops officers sent in to recover sensitive material in an illegal transaction.  They later learn that their mission was part of a cover up of a shameful military commander’s actions from years earlier – the decimation of a planet and its inhabitants.

PearlsKnown as Pearls, these beautiful, androgynous aliens, thought to be primitive because of their simple existence are nearly extinguished during a war they aren’t even a part of.  I think they’re the best part of the entire film.  We soon discover they’re basically geniuses, learning advanced math and science theories and practices in a matter of years not only to survive, but also because they wish to return to their way of life.  But as clichéd villains go, the ol’ commander doesn’t want any reminders of the past.

That’s the plot in a nutshell.

The side story is the uninteresting love connection they’re trying to force on us between the Major and the Sergeant.  There is absolutely no spark between the two leads.  Their performances, for me, were flat and dull.  Valerian, as we learn through a quick recap, is a womanizer, and most likely for sake of the film and in the hopes we’ll root for them, becomes fixated on his partner.  There is absolutely no cause for this other than their close proximity to one another.

Suddenly, he’s proposing, and that dominates nearly every conversation between them the rest of the movie.  Ugh.  And this coming from a romantic.

I was bitter that such a beautiful, overachieving movie would fall so flat, especially in such capable hands – those same hands are responsible for The Professional.  The advances in technology have allowed us unlimited potential in our imaginations in regards to translating that to the screen, and I think that Valerian relied too heavily upon this.  Enamored with their visuals, they forgot that some of us were paying attention to why we were there in the first place – the story.

Ah well, not every time out can be a winner.  Will I continue to support Luc and his visions?  Of course.  But whereas I was disappointed that I didn’t initially see this in theaters, I’ll probably weigh this endeavor against any future films and the feelings of immediacy at seeing it in theaters in way of support.

Twoandhalfstars

What I’ve learned recently is that when my expectations have been high, I’ve been disappointed, like 99% of the time.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by films I had low expectations of, and that’s a sad truth to face, especially in light of the fact that I want to be a part of said industry.

Do you agree or disagree with my take on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets?  Share your thoughts below.

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Rambling Review – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

*Spoiler free review ahead.

Witcher 3

This “more than just a piece of eye candy” is Geralt of Rivia.  Swoon.  He’s from a fantasy land where once upon a time, a conjunction split the veil between worlds, allowing mystical creatures to spill into his.  In an effort to battle the “forces of evil”, the Witchers were created by terrible means, Geralt among them.

This 2015 Game of the Year winner has all the facets of well, everything, not just gaming, I’m drawn to – Medieval-like fantasy world, old world order of potential do-gooders, magic, sweeping backdrops with a rich, layered history – it was without fail that this would become my new favorite thing.

I was nearing the end of my first playthrough when for Christmas this year, The Sis bought me a series of books, and that’s when I learned a bit of the history of The Witcher.  I had no idea the game was based on novels by fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski.  The first book, The Last Wish was published in 1993.  That’s a long time to be clueless about something I was destined to love.  There are currently eight books in the series, three games, a failed Polish movie and tv series, and a new show by Netflix was just announced.  Now that could prove interesting as everyone is on the hunt for the next Game of Thrones-like series.

I started the game completely oblivious to the storyline as I had not played the previous two.  Not the best idea when the world you’re walking into is already so established.  Maybe it was because of this, I felt a bit of disconnect initially from Geralt.  I didn’t know who he was, where he had been, or why people hated him because he was a Witcher.  His purpose seemed like a good one.

There was war brewing on all fronts and with monsters running amok, no one seemed concerned with the other impending threat, the Wild Hunt.  Frightening, almost unstoppable warriors with skeletal armor from another world, the Wild Hunt appears with a frost that dramatically affects the world around them.  And these “things” were chasing after my (Geralt’s) ward-like daughter, Ciri.Ciri

The beautiful girl with an interesting background and the voice of a Dragon Age character (Hawke from DA2) immediately became my concern (and I do mean mine).  And that became the true purpose of the game – find and protect Ciri.

I had to force myself to play the game the first few times, which did not thrill me because I had been so excited to play after watching a trailer.  This one, specifically: (*Be forewarned that this includes content not suitable for all ages.)

After those initial attempts, I decided to just follow the main storyline objective and things became more clear.  I was still a bit lost when it came to matters of politics and the hatred towards witches and non-humans, but the further I delved into this world, the easier it became to navigate, and then suddenly, I was in love.

The game is beautiful and expansive.  Cut scenes are cinematic, and there are a lot of them.  Many times I felt like I was in a movie that I was lucky enough to be able to move around in.

*Helpful hint: Unlike some games, you can not put the controller down and walk away during conversations.  Often times there are timed responses, so you don’t want to lose out on that choice.

There were a number of comments made by people in-game who thought they knew who Geralt was.  I chose to make him more kind, almost out of spite because no one was going to talk about my boy like that in front of me and get away with it.  Also, in part because I always play the “nice guy” when morality meters are involved.  Sometimes we chose to fight, but sometimes we were merciful, giving our enemies reason to pause.  The more I played, the more I liked him.  The mutagens given to him as a boy to make him a Witcher made his hair turn white and stripped him of his outward emotion, but he has a good sense of humor, is loyal, and cares deeply.

As the game progressed, I learned why people both liked and feared him.  Witchers are considered freaks themselves, unnatural.  As a hired monster slayer known as the White Wolf, not only is he a fearsome warrior with a bloody reputation, he’s also known as being quite the womanizer.  There are a few women to romance in the game, and Geralt, looking the way he does and having women throwing themselves at him took each opportunity.  Although to be honest, I’m not sure how likely this all would have been back in 2007.  Thank the advances of technology!

Geralt's Gaming Versions

Helpful tip: Romancing multiple characters can bite you in the a** if you’re not careful. 

The witch in the trailer is Yennefer, Geralt’s long time, on again-off again lover. Triss She’s powerful and self-assured with a biting wit, and it’s easy to see why she and Geralt are continually drawn back to one another.  While she aligns herself with powerful allies, like kings and emperors, the adorable and sweet Triss Merigold is helping witches escape the fires as hunters close in.

There’s history with each of these women, and more of their pasts are divulged as the game continues, making it understandable why Geralt, and I, had a hard time choosing. 😉

There’s a great deal to discuss with this game.  There are many facets and intricate details that made this game so mesmerizing and engaging, but I will draw my rambling review to a close.  Perhaps in the near future I will post a Witcher Review: Part II.

Like Dragon Age, where your character’s decisions influence the world around you, I failed on occasion to complete certain side quests in a timely fashion and that ended up shaping the world for the better or worse (Eh, it was my first playthrough after all, and it’s all a learning curve.), but because of the immersive quality, this is a game that has definite replayability.  It’s a word.

If you enjoy the fantasy trope RPG, this will, without a doubt, speak to you…as it did me.  By far, one of the best games I’ve played.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It’s up near Dragon Age.  And now that I have a few books at my disposal, let the new obsession begin.

 

5stars

So, I’m smitten.  How about you, fellow gamers?  Have you played?  Let’s discuss!