WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, John Goodman, Herbie Hancock, Sam Spruell and Kris Wu
WRITER(S): Luc Besson (screenplay); Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières (French comic book/graphic novel on which the film is based)
DIRECTOR(S): Luc Besson
And as they begin their journey, Valerian and his partner (and girl of his dreams?) soon find out there’s a lot more to his vision – and what they’re investigating – than they ever dreamed.
SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? Given that the name of the film is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, it is pretty easy to talk about how the film tries to do about 1,000 things in an attempt to be the ultimate sci-fi movie and only does maybe a tenth of them well.
On the plus side, the film looks great in 3D as director Luc Besson and company actually use the technology well to immerse you into Valerian’s and Lorelei’s world. Additionally, Delevinge exudes a strong, silent sexy confidence as Lorelei and proves herself to be an intriguing character as does Rihanna, who’s performance is nuanced and should have no fears of being roasted the same way Ed Sheeran recently was for his Game of Thrones appearance. In fact, one might argue Rihanna’s character is the best thing about the movie, both in execution and significance to the story.
Unfortunately, that’s where the praise of Valerian ceases – for everything else about the movie seems to be a study in excess and how NOT to do a sci-fi movie from start to finish.
Complaining about something looking fake in a science fiction movie is kind of like going to a restaurant and complaining about not being able to come back to an all-you-can-eat buffet and complaining you can’t come back the next day to eat again without paying a second time: It’s dumb. That being said, the CGI in Valerian is a bit much at times as the inhabitants of Mul just look like the worst Avatar-inspired creatures ever. Next up, the story is a bit overly convoluted for a reason that is never explicitly explained in regards to why the bad guy (once the bad guy is revealed) is doing what he’s doing other than doing it for the sake of doing it.
Adding to the problems is the fact that DeHaan’s character is just … flat … And shares as close to zero chemistry with Delevingne (show steals every scene they’re in together) as possible. Whereas his character is apparently supposed to be a cocky ladies man who has a soft spot for Lorelei but instead he just comes off as kind of a douche that she reluctantly cares about and is just waiting for him to learn his lesson. Seriously, out of all the performances in the film, Dehaan’s is about the least interesting of the entire batch – and that’s a problem. The advice Han Solo once famously gave advice to a young Luke Skywalker would seriously serve DeHaan’s character well in the movie. Sadly, that is not the case here. (Then again, it’s not quite as painful as watching Clive Owen and Ethan Hawke play the most over-the-top characters this side of John Turturro in those awful Transformers movies, complete with bad outfits to match.) Throw in Besson’s tendency to overindulge everything – be it cutesy characters in the form of the three Jar-Jar Binks-esque, platypus-inspired informations Lorelei deals or the über-cute little creatures that produce the pearls the Muls – a key species in the movie – value so dearly to the long-for-no-good-reason sequences that drone on, Valerian is an exercise in giving to every idea that sounds good without realizing how well they do or don’t fit together. It’s almost like he took everything people said they loved about The Fifth Element and forgot why people use editors (both video and script).
Likewise, the film wants to be funny when it should be trying to be taking serious and comes off as funny when it’s trying to be serious. Add in the fact it wants to be Star Wars (there a LOT of characters that look like they were hanging out at the Mos Einsley Cantina) and look like Avatar without achieving either well and throw in a bit of a preachy message (there’s one in there) and Valerian rolls out as an ambitious but overwrought mess.
Could be worse, though – at least it’s not Battlefield Earth.