With Marvel & DC’s cinematic rivalry on hold until November, we can turn our attention to film adaptions of indie comic books: Valerian & The City Of A Thousand Planets & Atomic Blonde. These two motion pictures share other commonalities too: I’ve not read either source material yet, John Goodman’s voice, & neither is doing as well at the box office as I believe they ought to be. If you want more variety in your comic book movies, support these! So (with very minimal spoilers) here’s why you should see both of them in cinemas. (But if you only want Marvel & DC movie tidbits, scroll down to where I discuss Deadpool 2 & Aquaman.)
Laureline: The City Of A Thousand Planets is not a particularly deep movie, but it’s a very pretty one. Melo the Mül Converter is the most adorable alien, & I want one! (It doesn’t appear NECA or Hot Toys will oblige.) The inter-dimensional chase is a fantastic action sequence. Smug Valerian (whose name will always remind me of Conan the Barbarian’s Valeria) & impassioned Laureline (who sometimes gets second billing on the comics depending on the edition), take turns rescuing each other from distress. That he arbitrarily outranks her does skew the equality of their partnership & romance, although it’s more of a background detail than a story element so it could’ve easily been adjusted. Alpha the City of a Thousand Planets sounds much more impressive before you find out it’s just a space station that contains settlements from 1,000 planets rather than being literally 1,000 planets combined into one mega-planet. (It’d kind of be like calling London the City of Six Continents based on its inhabitants as opposed to it becoming the new Pangea.) Alpha has an odd scarcity of women (this is also not a plot point) at least as far as humans go. Weirdly entering one zone to retrieve a kidnapped partner (outfitted in an absurdly glorious hat) is an intergalactic incident unless the rescuer is temporarily disguised by a shapeshifter before slaughtering everyone. The movie retains an episodic European vibe like a less bawdy Barbarella. Luc Besson is writing two sequels that sadly won’t be produced, but at least it’s keeping him out of trouble.
Atomic Blonde is the best Black Widow movie that Marvel Studios won’t make! (Salt previously held this distinction.) It has a great 1980’s soundtrack, despite the glaring omission of Blondie’s “Atomic” given its current title. (It’s based on The Coldest City, which makes my combo headline work a bit better.) An early scene showcases Charlize’s Theron’s tautly muscled & bruised back so there’s no doubt she’s convincing as ass-kicking spy Lorraine Broughton. (By the way, all of Theron’s action figures from the inferior Prometheus that I’ve come across have enormous irises so it looks like she’s on Melange.) James McAvoys’s sketchy bootlegger spy makes me more excited to watch him in Filth. Out of the three standard espionage scenarios (missing superweapon, assassination plot, & all undercover agents about to be doxxed), it goes with option three. There’s been so many spy movies that this Cold War period piece doesn’t offer much novelty, but it does do everything with panache. It finds a solid middle ground between 007’s over the top set pieces & George Smiley’s realistic tedium. I could’ve done without one of the end reveals, but it’s not the sort of twist that derails a whole movie. There’s plenty of brutal action but it still has a sense of humor. Deadpool 2, director David Leitch’s next project, is in good hands.
Speaking of Deadpool 2, Zazie Beetz as Domino is revealed. (Coincidentally her Atlanta co-star Donald Glover is making a Deadpool cartoon for FXX, but isn’t Archer already basically Deadpool but with better skin to compensate for no powers & costume?) As I suspected, they inverted her design so she has a white mark over her eye. It’s just not as dynamic because they didn’t go all the way with giving her inhumanly pitch black skin for contrast. She gets a less generic costume than typical movie X-Men or her next Marvel Legend, although it looks more like movie Gamora than her comics wardrobe. I guess it’s kind of like this short-lived look.
Atlanteans typically ride enormous seahorses, but I guess sharks are easier for audiences to swallow. I’m surprised this wasn’t a key facet of his mythos until the movie. OUTRAGEOUS!
Ocean Master is a repainted Justice League: Throne of Atlantis edition I scored for a whopping $8.00 Canadian. For some strange reason, DCC painted his armored bits icky ecru instead of gold. If they wanted it to look like coral, they failed. I sculpted a belt over the painted-on one. They also egregiously stiffed
Underwater Loki Orm out of his trident, so one was fashioned from a dowel & tin can. Since this animation model was recycled from Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, I was able to use the more iconic trident featured there. Technically his weapon isn’t even a real trident, much like Aquaman’s pentadent. Atlantean fork technology is more advanced when it comes to tines than surface dwellers’. (Trident the Teen Titans foes deserves a gum endorsement instead. ) I went out of my way to order a Shark & Awe for his shark-steed.
Not to be outdone by Domino, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II debuted his Black Manta costume. It’s another big departure, but at least it looks as much like a manta ray as his classic costume. (I like the cut of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s jib, particularly since he’s a The Second not a mere junior.) Black Manta has become Aquaman’s #1 villain, based the inexplicable popularity of the inaccurate helmet atop his otherwise unremarkable costume. Manta rays not having flying saucers for heads is Marine Biology 101. Everybody knows they shoot lasers out of their noggin prongs not gigantic eyes! (His Underworld Unleashed redesign was best!) So I’m probably alone in hoping Ocean Master’s movie outfit is far more comics accurate than Black Manta’s.
If I don’t get stuck on jury duty next week, maybe I’ll return with an overdue review of Netflix’s Luke Cage!