Luc Besson, the writer and director of The Fifth Element and Lucy, returns to the big screen with his new science fiction space epic, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. This movie was based on a classic French graphic novel, Valerian and Laureline, which inspired many other sci-fi creators (including George Lucas when creating Star Wars) and brings as much creativity and originality to the theater as any film has in a long time.
Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is a major in the military, on board the gigantic space station Alpha, where over decades races of humans and aliens have come together to create this hub of all information from the universe. Valerian’s partner is Laureline (Cara Delevingne), whom Valerian has feelings for.
The pair head out on a mission to retrieve a certain macguffin that the officers aboard Alpha want to find. Along the way, Valerian and Laureline discover their feeligns for each other as well as a mystery involving an unknown race living in the red zone of Alpha.
I really enjoyed this movie. The visuals for Valerian is simply astounding. There was so much to look at throughout the movie, it made you think of Besson’s past movie The Fifth Element, but also films such as Avatar and, to a lesser extent, Jupiter Arising. The CGI was one of the most amazing aspects of the film.
There was also more creativity here than I have seen in a long time. Some of the great ideas and sci-fi concepts worked really well. There was a great scenario where Valerian had to go to a desert planet to retrieve the macguffin. The planet looked like a desert until you wore special glasses and special gloves that allowed you to interact with the market in a different dimension. This chase through the market between dimensions was as breathtaking and imaginative of a scene as you will see in movies this year.
I have seen some criticism of the two lead actors in this movie, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, for not having chemistry or being very good actors, but I enjoyed them in this film. I did not feel taken out of the film by either of them. In reflection, the criticism that they looked to be too young for the parts may have some credibility, but, honestly, I did not think about that during the film’s run time.
Speaking of run time, this is one of the issues I had with Valerian. It is too long and needed to be edited down some. I think there were several scenes that could have been condensed to make the film feel more tightly woven.
The dialogue was hit or miss at times during the film, in particular between DeHaan and Delevingne. The early part of the film’s dialogue in particular where the movie takes a lot of time to explain to us about these two characters by having them talk about each other seemed unneeded.
Some people have complained about Bubbles, the character played by Rihanna in the movie. This is a character that does not spend much time on screen, but was one that I really liked. She reminded me very much of the Diva Plavalaguna from The Fifth Element for impact. Her dance performance was extremely visual and entertaining, but don’t go into the movie thinking that Rihanna will be a major player, because she is not.
I do worry that this movie will flop dramatically at the box office. Reportedly with an $180 million dollar budget, Valerian seemed like the type of film that won’t come anywhere close to that figure. It has been spoken that this has been Luc Besson’s dream project for years, but one wonders if there was a way to make this at a lower cost level to be able to regain its money. I’m fearing that this could be in the range of John Carter type flops.
And that would be a shame because this is one of the most original, most creative, most imaginative films made in years and such creativity should be seen as a good thing. The few negatives in the movie do not take away from the epic nature of the film and I can honestly say that I enjoyed this a great deal.