I saw Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets this past weekend, and my overall impression of it was…meh. And apparently, the majority of movie-going audiences agreed with me, as VCTP had one of the worst opening weekends for an independent film ever, only grossing $17 million of its $209 million production budget, making it the most expensive independent film ever made.
But you know what could have helped this movie grab a bigger audience? Maybe a little rebranding…I mean, folks aren’t that familiar with the Valerian and Laureline comic books, but what if you attached something people love to this project, say…Cartoon Network’s animated hit Steven Universe?
Why do I say this? Because there are some uncanny similarities between VCTP and SU, which at first may look coincidentally superficial, but the deeper you delve, the more you see (or can’t unsee).…
Here are the eight ways VCTP is actually SU (if SU fused with the visuals of The Fifth Element).
WARNING: Some Spoilers Ahead!
1. Gem-based alien race – This is what got me thinking about the comparison. In VCTP, we have the Pearls from the planet Mül, a race of people whose entire existence relies on cultivating and mass-producing pearls which supply massive amounts of energy. It’s a fairly “female-looking” race of aliens, where even the Pearl emperor has a feminine look and voice (given that he’s voiced and portrayed by two French actresses). In SU, the Gems are a race of female aliens who are all derived from various types of gemstones – including pearls, of course – and their gemstones are the center of their energy and powers. Coincidence? Yeah, pretty sure it is, but it only gets weirder...
2. Pearl design – So this ties into my first point, but what really stuck with me was how the design for the Pearl race in VCTP looks so much like the character design for Pearl in SU. Pale skin, insanely thin, blue eyes, an oblong-shaped head (although SU Pearl’s head looks oblong because of her hairstyle) and pearls on the forehead (at least VCTP Pearl royalty has them, and the pearls are for decoration, not an embedded facial feature). Even Princess Loihi’s dress design is similar to that of Blue Pearl, with the blue gauzy material.
3.Male protagonist has a female alien entity “inside” him – Steven Universe’s mother, Rose Quartz, gave up her physical form when Steven was born, and now her gemstone is embedded on his stomach, which somehow means he’s also Rose Quartz but not really…not totally sure how that works. When Princess Loihi dies in VCTP, she sends her spirit out into the universe to find a benevolent, good-hearted host to inhabit…and picks Valerian. Out of literally billions upon billions of available hosts. But I mean, Steven and Valerian are so similar…except Steven is likeable, while Valerian is a womanizing, self-serving douche (wait…Lars?).
4.Shapeshifting sidekick – So apparently all Gems from SU have the power to shapeshift, but only one character does it on a regular basis: Amethyst. She’s sassy, opinionated, and feels a bit like a outsider because of her history. She uses shapeshifting both to protect herself as well as for the enjoyment of being other people/things, and she will go out of her way to protect the male hero, even at risking herself. VCTP’s Bubble (yes, that’s really her name) matches this description to a tee, although her blue, watery visage also reminds me of Lapis Lazuli. Also, both have a tentacle / whip weapon motif (minds out of the gutter, please).
5. Villain is okay with committing genocide on an entire race that doesn’t even have anything to do with the war he/she is fighting – Man, apparently a villain doesn’t even need to know you to want to wipe you out of existence. The Diamonds of SU, particularly the cold and ruthless Yellow Diamond, have been at war with the Crystal Gem rebels for centuries, and since the Crystal Gems are guarding Earth, the Diamonds want to form a geo-weapon by growing a massive Cluster Gem buried in the Earth’s core. Since the Cluster would form as an entity larger than the Earth itself, it would literally burst apart the whole planet, killing all human life. But at least the human race stands a chance in SU – not so with VCTP’s planet Mül, which had the unfortunate luck of being in the same vicinity as where humans and an unknown alien race were having a galactic battle. Desperate for victory, the humans unleash a nuclear missile to take out their adversaries, and at the same time blow up all of Mül. Yikes.
6. There’s a thing in the middle of the world that we know pretty much nothing about except that it’s going to kill everyone - VCTP’s city of Alpha has a mysterious “dark force” dead smack in the center that no inspection team has ever come back from alive, and it’s growing bigger. SU has a giant Cluster Gem in the Earth’s core, and it’s growing bigger. Discworld never had these problems, you know why? No spherical center.
7. Popular R&B singer plays a kick-ass (both literally and figuratively) character – We all love a strong female character who not only can whoop the baddies, but can do it while belting out a killer tune. So VCTP cast Grammy-winning Rihanna as shapeshifting alien Bubble, and SU’s power-gloved Garnet is voiced by British soul singer Estelle. They’re both even one-name artists (who needs a last name anyway?).
8. There’s some fusion stuff – Okay, this one is a stretch, since the Gem fusions in SU are when two characters literally fuse together to make a whole new person with completely different abilities and personalities. But VCTP has some “fusing” moments, like when Valerian and Bubble combine to disguise themselves as a primitive cannibal alien, or when Laureline “fuses” with a telepathic jellyfish to locate Valerian’s whereabouts.
Any similarities I may have left out? Share in the comments your thoughts!