Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is set to be released this Thursday, and unfortunately, reviews haven’t seemed promising for this cult favourite. So I – your Friendly Neighbourhood Writer Man – have returned from my quest from The Backlot Studios, Cinema of a Thousand Films, to see whether the tales of this film be true!
And they are… For those who don’t know, Valerian is based on a French science fiction comic series, Valerian and Laureline, which ran from 1967 to 2010. It follows the journey of our heroes Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) in the 28th century. Together, they are the Human Federation’s best pair of special operatives, set to work together through weak storylines and quickly forgotten side-characters.
This movie was okay. Nothing too special – but it’s definitely not going to be something director Luc Besson will be remembered fondly over. Unless you consider the costume design, special effects, and artistic imagery, which make the film absolutely stunning. But from the man who’s responsible for such cult classics as The Fifth Element and Leon: The Professional, Valerian just isn’t on the same level.
Without going into spoilers, I have to say the first half an hour was actually enjoyable. The opening credits were spectacular, and it really got across the message of how ‘The City of a Thousand Planets’ was developed. The film takes a big page from the concept ‘show don’t tell’, and other Sci-Fi writers should take note of the film’s execution of exposition. SERIOUSLY, ENOUGH WITH THE NARRATION!
The Main Issues
After the first act… I don’t know, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets felt somewhat boring. I couldn’t really get into the film because the script wrote itself into so many corners.
The main issue here is that the script sets up characters by their actions, and then later on will have those characters make decisions which completely disregard how they acted earlier. For example, one moment you’d have a character completely abuse the military chain of command, and the next they’d be preaching about their ‘planetary allegiance’. Essentially, characters kept on flip-flopping motives to either drag out the length of the film, or to solve problems which the writers wrote themselves into. So it’d be a good movie to take the kids I guess?
My second grudge against the film is that no one’s actions had any real consequences. If someone makes a mistake, it wasn’t the end of the world, and it didn’t hinder the story at all.
When you have plots like that, they’re just boring and not engaging. A good example of this happening would be in Avatar: The Legend of Korra, where Korra is specifically forbidden from going to ‘Republic City’, goes anyway, and there are literally no repercussions. And for those playing at home, that’s not a spoiler, it happened in the first bloody episode. But as much as I love Korra, that tiny bit of drama was just that. Tiny and short-lasting with little to no significance to the storyline. Much like in this movie.
Once again, they were okay.
Major Valerian at least in this film, is written as if he’s supposed to be Han Solo but is executed more like Russel Coight from All Aussie Adventures. But not as hysterical.
In all seriousness, Dane DeHaan was the wrong choice for Valerian. Much like others who’ve come before him, including Owen Wilson, Michael Cera and even Mathew McConaughey (until recently), Dane can really only play himself. There’s no variations in any of his roles, and he wasn’t as much of a likeable hero as Valerian at least was written to be.
Cara Delevingne on the other hand was not bad at all. In fact, she was pretty decent. She’s finally been given a main role in a film, and she’s actually proven her prowess, or at least her potential to become a good actress.
Other than for her poor chemistry with Dane DeHaan (which isn’t really her fault), and some rare occasions where she’d deadpan the camera, this is a very solid performance from fashion’s most eyebrowed-model turned actress.
At the very least, she’s a lot better than she was in Paper Towns or Suicide Squad, thanks to the fact that she now has a decent script to work with.
The Supporting Cast
Unfortunately, Valerian’s supporting actors which include the likes of Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, and yes, Rihanna, weren’t handled as well as they could have been.
Clive Owen and Ethan Hawke, were, to be frank, mistreated and underused. For such great actors, they could have performed so much better if they had a better script to work. I also have to say that I was really impressed by Rihanna’s performance, and am surprised to find myself being disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of her character.
The best supporting actor for this film would have to go to Sam Spruell’s General Okto-Bar, who was perhaps the most grounded and emotive character of the entire cast. I can’t help but relate him to General Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
My main problem would be that the supporting characters were discarded way too easily. They’re just there for a quick plot device and leave without a trace. So yeah, they’re the equivalent of an easily forgotten one-night stand.
NOW I KNOW I’VE GIVEN THIS MOVIE A LOT OF SHADE BUT DAMN IF IT’S NOT PRETTY. Simply put, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a toss-up between a designer’s wet dream or an inescapable nightmare – probably a bit of both.
The amount of effort that went into the CGI, costume designs, and even the creativity of the aliens is truly remarkable. I’d even equate it to some of the visuals used in Doctor Strange. But while I did recommend for people to see Strange just for the visual effects, I can’t say the same for Valerian.
It is without a doubt, a very creative film. But then again, that credit most likely belongs to the original creators of the comic-series, writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières.
All in all, I have to give Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets a generous 6/10.
For another spin on Valerian, have a look at K. Franc’s review of the film here. And be sure to follow me on twitter @ElliMiller17 to keep up with all my articles, and the latest news and reviews on any and all nerd pop-culture.