Ever since I saw the trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets last year, I’ve been waiting to watch it coz it looked so visually enticing. The movie is based on the best selling French comic series, Valerian and Laurellin, and is directed by Luc Besson (of Fifth Element fame). According to interviews, Besson had originally wanted to create this film rather than Fifth Element (now a cult favourite – and one of my favourite movies too :)) but he was only able to realise his dream recently. It is crowd sourced and funded by Besson himself at a budget of 200mil, making it the most expensive ‘independent’ movie in French history. You can definitely feel the Fifth Element vibe in this film though, just from the trailer:
It’s the 28th century, and top space agents Valerian (Dane de Haan) and Laurellin (Cara Delevingne) are working for the police force atop the Alpha, a human-built space station that is now home to millions of creatures from different planets, who live in harmony and exchange their knowledge and cultures. While out on a mission, Valerian has a dream of a peaceful humanoid race living on a tropical paradise, where they fish for energy pearls and use animals called ‘converters’ to duplicate them – before everything is destroyed by falling debris from the sky, and he is jolted awake.
The pair travel to a marketplace, where their mission is to retrieve a package from a black market dealer. The package turns out to be the converter Valerian had dreamnt of, and the customers in the deal are two of the mysterious humanoid race. After escaping from the dealer’s pursuit, they return to the Alpha, where they are told by Commander Fillit that part of the station has been infected by an unknown radioactive force, with no troops returning and the infection spreading. The two are assigned to protect the commander, but before the mission can continue the room is stormed by the humanoids, who kidnap the Commander.
Who are the mysterious humanoids, and what do they want? How is it related to Valerian’s dream, and why is the converter they are carrying, the last of its kind, so important? Our top agents set off through a series of adventures across the massive space station to find out…
Many reviewers have bashed Valerian, saying that the story is shallow and the acting wooden. I agree to some extent – but that’s not what i was expecting when I bought my ticket. I was expecting explosions, space action, colourful-looking aliens – and the movie delivers with aplomb. It is such a joy to behold the wonderful characters and the world that is Valerian’s; it’s like entering an exotic land for the first time to a sight and sound sensory overload. The story itself loses focus as it steamrolls to the end, but I felt that certain characters were developed well – just not our two main protagonists. The Pearl race(the humanoids), have an interesting backstory, and they’re extremely pretty to look at (the wonders of CGI). Even Rihanna, who plays Bubbles, a shapeshifter, has some golden moments, and the General who leads the team after the Commander’s kidnapping was also stellar in his performance.
The weakest link in the whole film were its two ‘heroes’ – Valerian and Laurellin. Which is ironic, seeing that the whole film was to be based around them. Perhaps Besson wanted to remain true to the love story between the two, but DeHaan and Delevingne have absolutely zero chemistry between them and the supposedly romantic/lovey-dovey conversations felt forced and emotionless. Delevingne, despite having starred as Enchantress in Suicide Squad, seemed not to have improved in the acting field. There was a comment that said the two looked like siblings, which was totally true. It felt incest-ual somehow lol.
No doubt Valerian falls short of Besson’s sci-fi piece de resistance, Fifth Element, but it has just enough of special effects and mindblowing scenes to carry its own. Years down the road, it might even become a cult favourite! We shall see.
Rating: storywise/acting, 4/10, visuals: 10/10. Average score: 6.5/10.