In the Century XVIII, the space station Alpha is a city where beings from different planets live together exchanging their knowledge and culture. Peace is granted by a human force, including Major Valerian and his partner Sergeant Laureline. They are assigned by the Defence Minister to retrieve the last species of converter in a dangerous mission. They succeed and back to Alpha, unknown humanoids abduct Commander Arun Filitt expecting to steal the converter. They head to a forbidden area that is infected but Valerian and Laureline follow them and disclose a hidden secret about the race and the infected area.
Tomatopotatometer: Critics 49%, Audience 55%
As a kid I never liked the Valérian comix, although I found the scifi idea and the rugged features of Valérian quite intriguing. But the artwork kinda put me off. It was all so swirly, hippie-esque and colourful. I missed the grit and dirt and the groundedness of more contemporary American and European comics. Valérian and Laureline appeared as weightlessly floating around in some undefined space. Nothing for me.
When we watched the movie, well aware of how it bombed at the box-office, we couldn’t really make up our minds about it. On one hand Besson has done everything right and fabricated a squeaky colourful fun drama with a huge production budget and some action and CGI galore. He presented to us a world full with the most funny aliens and the most one-dimensional villains.
Valerian was not as over the top silly as it’s predecessor The Fifth Element with Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis from 1997. That was a good thing, at least in my mind it was. On the other hand the whole premise of Valerian is so outlandish, the film adaption could have done with a bit more comedy.
But all in all we found the movie refreshingly adventurous and intriguing and felt wel entertained throughout the whole runtime. One movie reviewer on IMDb noted More fun than the last five Star Wars films, and hubby and me have to join his opinion. Otoh it’s not very hard to make a movie that is better than any SW flick, or is it? So there’s not much merit in achieving that goal. Particuarly not for a director giant such as Besson.
So we liked Valerian for what it is. A fantasy scifi flick based on a comic. Not more, not less. Now let’s see what we didn’t like. And let’s get right to the big white elephant in the room, the elephant everybody saw and noticed and acknowledged … well, everybody but the production company, the casting agents and Monsieur Besson:
The total lack of chemistry between Dane DeHaan (Major Valerian) and Cara Delevingne (Sergeant Laureline) is nothing that can our should be ignored. The whole franchise always lived from this relationship and more or less funny banter between the two protagonists. But Besson, in typical French manner, obviously thought casting two Calvin Klein underwear models, would be enough for a sexy and convincing movie.
Sorry to say, but it didn’t work. Audiences are generally stupid, and in 2017 more forgiving than ever before. But they still have a fine sensitivity for interpersonal stuffz. And mixing a good although relatively unknown American actor with one of the bitchiest lesbians in the bizniz … well, no! This pairing ruined the movie once and for all!
The rest of the cast was so-so as well. Clive Owen was rather liveless and bland as the villain and the cameo star appearence of Rihanna as the alien Bubble, was kinda ok-ish but mercilessly overused and outplayed. We were going like “Pheew” when her character finally dieded.
Apart from that Besson didn’t do much wrong. He didn’t fall into the trap of taking his source material too serious but gave us a hillarious, slightly over the top space opera spectacle with not much of philosophical or spirtual message. There’s no force in Valerian’s universe, and no prime directive as in other scifi franchises.
Because, and this is important, in all it’s over-the-topness, Valerian and Laureline’s world is ours, just a couple hundred years in the future.
So, after these two criticisms there ain’t much more to say about Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. So let’s get into the …
CONCLUSION: Valerian wasn’t a very good movie. Which was almost hundred percent to blame on the very unfortunate casting of two spoiled brats as our protagonists. While DeHaan is a real actor and could do well in other movies I saw Mademoiselle Delevingne as an aggravating disruptive factor. But, ok, she wears her outfits well, and that is maybe enough for some smaller, cheaper movies. For a legendary Besson vehicle it’s not nearly good enough.
WATCH IT: Yes, of course. While Valerian misses its mark by more than just a mile and let to Europacorps’s CEO’s firing, and although the heavy misstep of casting Delevingne, the movie isn’t nearly as bad as most critics make it. We had a mostly good time while watching Valerian.
YouTube MOVIE REVIEWS:
“a beautiful mess”
“will develop a dedicated hardcore following”
Some good reasons why Valerian flopped.
“You’re in awe!”
Georg Rockall-Schmidt knows exactly what went wrong!