Valerian… oh boy… Let’s get into a quick little history lesson here people. Don’t worry, it’ll be fun and YES it is important to the review.
Oh, but first, because I love to sum up my feelings of the movie early just in case you’re pressed for time, YES this movie is neat LOOKING. NO it isn’t very “good.” It’s watchable, but make sure the lights are on and you aren’t laying down.
ANYWAY, HISTORY!!!! Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on the the French comic Valerian and Laureline. This comic started in the late 1960’s, is a crazy sci-fi sort of space opera with time travel and multidimensional stuff… ANDDDDD helped inspire little movies like The Fifth Element and STAR-FUCKING-WARS.
So this comic is kind of a big fucking deal.
Now, the reason this is important to bring up is that Valerian probably would be a much more impressive movie if so much that made it impressive wasn’t already ingrained into pop culture about 40 years ago thanks to Star Wars. Basically, Valerian does a bunch of cool stuff, but it’s all old and unimpressive by today’s standards because it’s all been done before, and done better. In Star Wars.
For example, you know how Ghost in the Shell’s original story brought up the whole questions of identity and humanity and what that means for robots and AI… but then those ideas inspired things like The Matrix that took it further and when Ghost in the Shell finally made a mainstream live-action movie, it basically got beaten to the punch by it’s own idea child? Yeah, we basically have that with Valerian.
The creatures, the potentially untrustworthy government, the space battles… its nice but nothing super special. Even the designs of many of the suits are all very Star Wars-esque. Which again, is sad, because if anything, Star Wars should be in Valerian’s shadow. But that’s not even its biggest problem. I mean The Force Awakens is just A New Hope-Super HD Edition, but I enjoy that just fine. No, Valerian’s biggest problem is its actors and script.
Dane DeHaan plays Valerian and Cara Delevingne plays Laureline, the two main characters. I made sure to put an eyebrow joke in the title of this review, so you’re not getting any more. I’m sorry. I need to keep this at least somewhat classy…
But Holy shit the two of them, if they had a kid, that kid would have the most damn distinct eyebrows ever. You could see them from space. He’d never need a visor because the eyebrows alone would protect his eyes. He would need to make sure he only washed them once a week because they would take forever to dry.
Moving on… so I LOVE these two. I cannot explain why, but these two actors I just can’t help but root for. It might be because I’ve followed their careers pretty closely and yet have never REALLY fully enjoyed a single movie either have been in. Admittedly, I’ve yet to see A Cure for Wellness, so there is still hope, but GOSH I just feel like they both get cast in such shit movies. The streak continues with Valerain, and most of the fault is with these two. They are both… not fantastic in this movie. I can’t really describe it easily but the best I can come up with is that their acting is like… they are trying to always remain cool and calm and collected the entire movie, but they do it very dramatically. Like, if you really like a person and you’re trying to talk to them but you’re trying really hard to act like it’s not a big deal and it’s kinda over-emphasizing how not a big deal you’re making it… which of course is making it a super obvious big fucking deal???
Yeah, that’s them. THE ENTIRE MOVIE.
Even when one of them appears to be dead, the other is all like “Get up” But calmly… but still not? Also, they sound like every line of theirs was dubbed over in post… like the ENTIRE movie. Now, to get further into my problems with them, I have to delve into the OTHER major flaw in the movie… THE SCRIPT.
Damn this movie is poorly written. For starters, when it comes to our leads, I’m still pretty unsure if they were terrible because the acting was bad or just the writing for them was so bad it made the acting seem bad. There’s really no way to know for sure. But someone fucked up somewhere. And these leads??? Let me sum up EVERYTHING they say the entire movie (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything here)
Movie starts: Main actors talk about each other, summarizing exactly who they are and what their personalities are supposed to be so that the audience knows. No really, the first two minutes of these two is them walking around a spaceship telling us EXACTLY who they are. Thanks.
Then the rest of the movie is either action scene after action scene OR the two main characters alone with each other in which cases it’s Valerian being all “Hey, Laureline, we both dig each other. We should get married.” Responded by Laureline “No way. You have commitment issues”
Over. And over. And over.
Come on guys! This can’t be all your characters have to offer!!! PLEASEEEEE have more substance than this!!!
There IS a small piece of character growth for both… but it’s very small and results in literally a single conversation between the two of them that changes both of their minds on two small things. But that’s all we get. Otherwise the characters you got in the beginning… same ones you’re getting in the end.
Oh, and while we’re on the script of endless pointless action scenes interrupted by creeper trying to marry his partner, let’s talk about the villain. The villain of the movie is supposed to be a big reveal towards the end of the movie. I’m not going to tell you who it is. But the minute you see him, you’ll have figured out the big reveal. Awesome job movie. Totally saw every plot point coming from like a mile away. Thanks.
Also, pretty much EVERY plot point ever gets explained directly to the camera… even though you could already see it so you KNEW already… except one thing at the end. The thing that makes NO DAMN SENSE and I NEEDED it explained… but oh NOW you’re gonna let us figure it out for ourselves???? Fuck you, movie and you’re indecisive exposition. Fuck you! (What, there are kids reading this? Nonsense, no one ACTUALLY reads my reviews. You cray-cray)
This pisses me off. You have to understand. I LOVE The Fifth Element, and Luc Besson made The Fifth Element BECAUSE he couldn’t make Valerian and Laureline at the time. THIS is pretty much his life’s goal and… it’s just so damn disappointing. It’s gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, and I’m not saying it doesn’t still have really neat original ideas, because it totally does! The beginning of the movie has a whole chase scene that spans multiple dimensions and I thought it was the COOLEST THING!!!! But THAT level of creativity disappears pretty damn quickly and becomes nothing but a terribly acted, predictable slog of a movie.
Amazing atmosphere, and some really cool stuff and characters… but we never get to focus on the cool characters or places. There’s this whole giant epic space station, and we’re stuck in basically the sewers of it… with the eyebrow patrol. Meanwhile, we get teased with these crafty information merchant goblin things, and Rihanna’s character Bubble, who was both more interesting and way better portrayed, (Seriously, Rihanna did the best performance of the entire movie) but we only see them for at best a handful of minutes.
I guess I just expected more. Something more interesting or fun, and I just got… i don’t know. But I know there is way more to the Valerian franchise, so while I can’t suggest you see this movie I DO hope it does well enough for further installments. I’d still like to see Dane and Cara, I’d still like to see this universe, and I’d still like to see what COULD be around the corner (Please some damn time travel stories)
So yeah, I can’t with a clear conscience suggest this movie to you. Take a chance on Dunkirk or Baby Driver instead. But I also wouldn’t mind this movie making enough to warrant a sequel. I think he future of the Valerian universe has enough to offer, and I certainly would like to see Luc, Cara, and Dane get a win for once.
They try so hard.