This one's from the extraordinary visual imagination of Luc Besson; you might remember him: the chap who brought us the brilliant Fifth Element many many years ago? So if nothing else, Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets would be a treat for the eyes. And it was a treat for the eyes; unfortunately, it was pretty much nothing else.
Okay, in terms of scope, artwork, imagination and attention to detail, then this is something of a masterpiece, especially when you think that the movie was made outside of Hollywood. The scenery is breathtaking, the aliens are inspired (though some of them did look as if they'd been recycled from the Fifth Element). If that sort of thing floats your boat (it certainly floats mine) then it's well worth the rather drawn-out two hours and fifteen minutes you'll have to spare to sit through it. But in terms of storyline, script and performance then I'm afraid it misses its mark by a good light year.
The main problem with the film is that while it was concentrating so hard on being the movie equivalent of a catwalk model, it sort of forgot what it was trying to be; it blended action scenes, bits of history with a rambling and uninspired love story.
Okay, this is was a swings and roundabouts sort of a deal for me. They got a lot of stuff right, but I still think they have a way to go before they match the sheer awesomeness of Guardians of the Galaxy or The Age Of Ultron.
Okay, so what did they get right. Well, first off: Gal Gadot. This was a courageous and inspired piece of casting. I can imagine the punch-ups around the water cooler when someone suggested putting a near-unknown in the armoured corset, rather than someone with a more Johanssenesque quality. Well, the gamble paid off; Gadot brings a sort of naive, willful determination to the role, which was a welcome relief from the square-jawed stoicism we saw in Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.
If you’re familiar with the Manga classic of the same name, then there’s not much in this film that is going to surprise you, and this is a good thing. It’s pretty much the same story: at some unspecified point in the future, humans enhancing themselves with cybernetic body parts has become the norm. The mysterious Hanka Corporation has taken the notion one step further: a completely artificial body piloted by a human brain.
Now, taking a classic piece of Manga fiction and turning it into a Westernised action flick is always going to be a “swings and roundabouts” proposition. The advantage is that you have a classic story to work with. The disadvantage is … that you have a classic story to work with. As long as you stick to the original plot and keep most of the classic set pieces from the original, then the fans will give your efforts a grudging approval at the very least, and thunderous applause if you’re very lucky (or very good). The problem is that something that is essentially a cartoon may not translate well into a live action movie. Ghost in the Shell gets away with it … just. They’ve changed enough of the sequence to make it worthwhile for the affeciandos to see it, but kept enough of the original to delight them. Not bad, not bad at all. Continue reading “Film review: Ghost in the Shell”