I’ll defend Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to the end of my days, which isn’t hard because nobody actually saw the movie to be able to criticize it.
The movie has some of the most inventive and visually interesting action sequences this side of Mad Max Fury Road, and the art direction is something else. Also, while everyone thinks Dane Dehaan was a poor choice for a leading man, that’s just because they wanted Valerian to be some generic Han Solo ripoff instead of accepting him for the skeevy scummy horndog he was meant to be. The second half is a lot quieter and maybe less interesting than the first half, but it’s got a fantastic not-actually-action-packed climax and a resolution that’s shockingly heartfelt as much as its political undertones are bitingly cynical.
But I’m not here to talk about the movie as a whole, except that oops I already did. I’m here to talk about the opening.
The Nice Guys is one of my all-time favorite movies. As of this writing, I’ve seen the movie ten times, and it’s #9 in my Favorite Movies ranking. Shane Black’s absolutely superb screenplay that matches a convoluted detective conspiracy with meditations on masculinity and loneliness is a thing of wonders, inspiring me enough with my web novel ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture that I just had to insert a couple of sly homages here and there.
But my secret dishonor in all of this is that I did not see the movie in theaters in its original release.
Today is my birthday, so I wanted to reflect on a movie that is so dear to me that I watch it almost every year on my birthday to celebrate.
My seventh-favorite movie, as of this writing, is none other than 2013’s Pacific Rim. I first learned about it when making this article for my high school blog, only knowing that it was some strange new movie by the director of Pan’s Labyrinth about mechas fighting kaijus. I was instantly sold by that alone, and set my calendar to watch.
Then, seven months later I saw it in IMAX and it became an instant classic. Save for the fact that I have loved Star Wars since before I could form complete sentences, Pacific Rim in every way is “my” Star Wars, the movie that captured my heart and imagination in a way almost no movie before or sense has managed to do. I saw this four times in theaters, which is more than any other recent movie in an age where ticket prices are so high.
It’s a pretty lofty claim to say that any movie is so good that it’s on the same inspiration level as Star Wars. Why the heck did this move me so much?
I’m not really sure why I was excited for Crystal Pepsi.
It was some nonsense gimmick product, a fake health product released in a time before I was even born that made very little impact on the market and became mostly a forgotten relic.
That is, until nostalgia baiting kicked in. Nostalgic revivals of foods and drinks after they hit twenty-ish years old are pretty common in the United States, like when McDonalds brought back szechuan sauce, or when Crispy M&Ms returned to the M&Ms line.
Crystal Pepsi, though, was a bizarre one. It was marketed as a health product despite not being healthy at all, and its clear coloring is just… coloring. It’s just packaging and that’s it. The soda is caffeine-free, I guess, but there’s plenty of caffeine-free sodas these days, just colored differently. In the 2010s, there is growing resentment towards carbonated, sugary drinks and the health problems they help induce, and so any claim of being healthier than normal Pepsi would be met with wide scorn. Nostalgia for a dead product is all that could possibly sell a revival like this.
But despite all that, for some reason, I bought into the hype. I became so fascinated with such a stupid product that I was obsessed with trying it out for myself.
In Summer 2016, just two weeks before I was scheduled to move to Japan to study as an exchange student in Nagoya for a year, Crystal Pepsi had its limited-run revival. My friends and I immediately began scouring our local grocery stores and convenience stores to find some.
And… it was zilch. Many stores didn’t receive any in the first place, but everywhere we checked was out of stock. The run was so limited that stores were running out of their shipments in just the first day or two. It was very disappointing, and I was worried that we would never be able to find any–
And then there were a whole bunch of them just kind of sitting there in the local Walgreens.
So I bought like twenty of them.
And in the end… when I finally tried my first-ever Crystal Pepsi…
It was just Pepsi.
It was just Pepsi but clear.
I don’t even like Pepsi. It’s way too sweet and has a bad aftertaste, an opinion that is probably ingrained in my DNA as a Georgian (and a Georgian whose diabetic father exclusively bought Diet Coke).
So now I was stuck with a bunch of Crystal Pepsi bottles with a drink that I didn’t like that much, with just a couple weeks before I would be leaving the country. Luckily, I salvaged things with my greatest plan–a stupid prank.
When I finished a Crystal Pepsi bottle, sometimes I would refill the bottle with water and put it back in the fridge, in case my younger brother or a friend decided to drink one. They’d get some refreshing, healthy water, and also probably spit it all out as a gut reaction! It was an ingenious plan!
…Except nobody ever fell for it, except for me on a couple times where I didn’t pay enough attention to notice the cap seal had been broken.
I was hoisted with my own prank petard.
That’s a metaphor for this entire Crystal Pepsi debacle, honestly.