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Review – Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets

 

Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets

Acclaimed director Luc Beeson (The Fifth Element & Lucy) takes on the vast and intricate universe of Valerian and Laureline, a groundbreaking French Sci-Fi comic series that started in the 60s. Luc Beeson has stated that he’s always wanted to make the comic series into a film, but until James Cameron’s Avatar, he didn’t think we could technologically do it. But now in 2017, CGI has become another pillar in the film industry and suddenly Luc Beeson has all he needs to bring the world of Valerian & Laureline to life. However, the life Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets leads is a bland and messy one.

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD

Characters/Performances

Valerian and the City of A Thousand PlanetsThe characters of Valerian and Laureline are considered top-tier in the comic world. Both are individualistic and unique, Laureline being considered a great representation of strong women in Sci-Fi, especially at the time. But here, in this adaptation, both characters fail to capture anything resembling interest. Actors Dane DeHaan (Valerian) and Cara Delevingne (Laureline), for some reason, bore. They are uninteresting faces in a universe filled with life and intrigue. It makes no sense why our two leads can’t hold this film up. Perhaps it was the writing, but even then it seems like Dane DeHaan wasn’t even trying to show a genuine emotion. Even when his character is falling through space, he’s monotone and uninterested. Cara had small moments, but barely worth mentioning. At first, Laureline seemed to be a beacon of hope for the film, like she’s a real individual, a strong-minded woman. But as the movie title has made abundantly clear, this is about Valerian (for some reason). So, naturally, she winds up as typical as you can get by the end. I’m simply confused on how these two can actually add nothing to the film at all.

And it’s not like they had strong support either. Every other person in this film was completely forgettable. Clive Owen plays Commander Arun Filitt and he was just dreadful. A plain “villain” that offered zero interesting characteristics. Behind him, there was Sam Spurell as Five-Star General Okto-Bar and it’s just more of the same. Not a single being, save for a few of the Mul aliens, had any layer of character. It was pitiful, really. Even Rihanna couldn’t save this mess. Her random character, Bubble, was just another thing carelessly thrown in and killed like fifteen minutes later. I didn’t care for a single bit of it.

Also, the film is all around poorly acted. As I said before, Dane DeHaan was a bore, and Cara wasn’t much to speak of, and most other characters were forgettable. But it seemed like every line spoken was some sort of cliché or some horrible attempt at comedic relief. I couldn’t find a real reason to care for anyone, and the acting gave me more reasons to leave the film rather than stay until the end. I, of course, wound up sitting through it all, but it was really only to solidify that my thoughts throughout will be confirmed.

Writing/Direction

Perhaps the most painful part of the movie, and it really pains me to say, was the writing. Valerian has some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard. It was a chore to listen to these characters talk to one another, and that’s just sad. I don’t think I got through one conversation without face-palming or rolling my eyes. Aside from the dialogue, the whole plotline and pacing of the film were messy, to say the least. The movie could barely keep your attention, if at all, with what was going on. It didn’t give you much reason to care for what was happening.

The opening sequence of the film is the only real redeeming piece of film in there. It is a beautiful opening, generating so much life and promise and it starts the film off wonderfully. Even the transition to Mul, where we meet these gorgeous pale beings who are gentle, somewhat primitive but are interconnected to their planet. It was a brilliant start, I’ll say. But once our focus shifts to the human leads, Valerian and Laureline, the film seemingly drops off so steeply by shoving this hetero-romance in your face. Really? We are set in a universe that is inhabited by some incredibly stunning alien creatures and worlds, and yet we get some bland, forced romance to worry about? I don’t find romance intrinsically bad but to have it just thrown together and continuously slapping you in the face throughout the film was annoying.

I can’t stress enough Luc Beeson’s poor use of this intricate and gorgeous universe, it’s almost pathetic, honestly. The film couldn’t even excite you when action/fighting/chasing was happening. They all felt trivial. When the movie made the rare attempt at character building or plot building, it all felt extremely disingenuous. The backstory to how the planet Mul was decimated and its inhabitants were nearly eradicated was maybe an honorable attempt at creating interest, but everything before it made you feel numb. I’m a lover of epic space battles, but this here was a poor attempt at anything of the sort. It was space battle mimicry. And if a movie centered on alien conflicts and space can’t catch the attention of me, then the film is flawed to its very core. It’s bad.

Final Rating

I’m a sucker for aliens. I’m a sucker for space. Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets had an abundance of both, and I could barely sit through it. As I stated before, the film has some gorgeous creatures and things to explore, and through the first twenty minutes or so, I was so excited for what I was going to experience. But so much potential and possibility was wasted on bland characters, a weak and messy plotline, and a forced romance that had no business being there. Valerian is perhaps the best example of muddled, cliché sci-fi that does absolutely nothing for the genre. It’s just here now and I guess we’ll just have to wait to forget about it.


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James Goodson

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