A friend of mine once said to me, “When you’re hanging with a new group of people, and they have all these inner jokes (that seem hilarious to them), but you’re watching from the outside like…I guess I’ll get the context later? If?”.
That feeling is how I feel about Valerian: City of a Thousand Planets. I am watching this movie that is apparently supposed to be a comedy as well as a sci-fi action film, but I barely laughed. Not many chuckles came out either and I am wondering if it’s because I am just not in on the joke. Based on a comic series in France, Luc Besson brings to life the story of Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) who both play operatives who keep the peace of the human territories are assigned to visit Alpha which are the grounds of the blended and mix races from many different planets. At least a thousand of them based on the title. There is a threat to Alpha as well as the universe and it’s up to the pairing of the leads to help stop the threat.
This movie had all the right elements to a great blockbuster: Stunning effects and settings, great writer and director Luc Besson, who is responsible for the epic sci-fi favorite The Fifth Element, rising stars who can do nothing but move up in their career with each project. So, what went wrong with it? This movie missed all opportunity to connect with the audience. This movie just felt like it was made for a specific audience or maybe even fans of the comic book. Now comic adaptations happen all the time so what makes this so different? Throughout this film, I felt like we, the viewers, were given a story we should have been aware of or be up to date on and now given one of their many adventures without any context or back story.
In other words, it just felt like we were watching a sequel rather than the first installment of a new story. The characters and the world we were introduced to just seemed like a continuation rather than an introduction. We are made to believe and cheer on the possibility of the two leads becoming more than just partners on a job. Unfortunately, we get no back story to the start of their friendship, why Valerian is so much in love with Laureline that he is already asking to marry her and they have never even shared a kiss. Their romance just isn’t believable at all.
The humor, if you want to call it that, in the movie just left a weird taste in my mouth as some of these punch lines were very basic, cliché, and sitcom like that it wasn’t even the least bit humorous because we don’t really have any personality knowledge of the characters to laugh along with. So for over two hours we are forced to sit through a movie that tries to create a new epic saga and possible franchise but instead gives us a movie that would have been best presented as a video game or maybe a mini-series event on a channel of your choice.
The movie started off very good, giving us a montage of a timeline from the beginning of the created city Alpha and how a portion of alien beings from around the galaxy come together to share their knowledge, technology, and skills to one another. This movie does come with some interesting things but were underused making this movie less of a chance for success. With characters coming in and out of the film every minute it was hard to really connect or figure out who we should be paying attention to for future development. One example would be the Pearl Species of Mul. These alien beings were beautiful and captivating. Their way of life was very peaceful and engaging and they didn’t even speak a word of English. Their language is very exotic just like their look. They are a part of the central plot of the story but are missing from much of the screen time until towards the third act of the film. I wanted to know more about these people and their way of life and just when we are just getting to know them more, it was just about that time to get down to the final battle and face-off between the now established villains and heroes of the film.
Another disappointment was that the best character of the film had maybe a screen time of 10-15 mins at best and that character is unexpected. I am talking about Bubble, a morphing professional dancer played by singer/artist Rihanna. Her debut scene was sort of set up scene just like the Blue opera singer from The Fifth Element received in that movie. Visually, I loved it. Rihanna did a great job at capturing my attention but still felt a little bit underwhelming to create a moment in the movie. Suddenly she is thrown into the mission as her specific ability comes in handy for what Valerian has to do next. Sadly, it doesn’t last very long and the film leaves me wanting so much more from her. One reason is because I learned more about Bubble and her character was developing quite nicely than I did with any other character in the movie. Trust that this will frustrate you as well.
So is this movie worth a view? I would say that if there was a guarantee of more stories from these characters to possibly fill in the blanks of what came from the first film, I would say give it a whirl. This film isn’t as entertaining as it should be. It lacks smart humor, likable characters, and a story that connects with the audience. It wasn’t a total bore but this film is not good enough to justify a trip to the movies. Which is really sad because this movie should only be seen on a big screen or a TV that has 4K or 3D capabilities. The visual effects are top-notch and just the first 15 mins of watching the inhabitants on the planet Mul is really nice to see. Just think of movies like John Carter and Jupiter Ascending. Those movies attempted to start something fresh and introduce us to a new world full of diverse characters but both of them failed to grab the attention of their audience and Besson’s latest film falls under that category.
2 out of 5
Let me know what you thought of the review and this movie. Will this give you more motivation to see the movie for yourself or is this what you expected and decide to just wait to watch it in the future? Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the movies.