Quick Hit: A movie that coasts on the visual expectations of a film from Luc Besson, creator of the cult classic The Fifth Element.
Valerian starts off with the formation of a giant space station as it continues to grow and grow within earth’s atmosphere. This is set to the song “Space Oddity”, and eventually transitions to the different alien species that make contact with man. This eventually leads to the creation of “Alpha”, which is a floating space city that is nearly as large as its own planet. After this we are translated to an undetermined point on an alien planet that contains a species that seems to live inside conchs, and thrive in association with their environment, before it is destroyed by falling debris. This sequence, which takes place over several hundred years, sets the stage for a film that is based upon lazy humor, dialogue that never really takes off, but astounding visuals and immersive world building.
The film follows two space agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) as they go about uncovering a political cover-up, rescuing each other multiple times, and exploring the world that Besson has built for us.
At times, the movie really, really succeeds. In what is a thrilling, multi-dimensional sequence, Valerian recovers a creature that can replicate anything that it eats. This all takes place in a market that is only scene to you when you have certain glasses. To everyone else, it looks like a desert plane. Besson has fun with this by shifting the view back and forth. So, while Valerian is consistently fighting, jumping, and dodging, it looks like he is just doing so around nothing. It’s a really fun sequence, equally realized in all aspects
There are a lot of beats that are hit that seem to be drawing on The Fifth Element for inspiration – that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it gives the whole film a bit of a “been there, done that” vibe. But some of those visual spectacles are too amazing to deny. When you throw in Besson’s world building ability, full of creatures and races, full of colors and looks, and fashion as well – the film is an amazing thing to watch. But is it a good movie? Read on my friends.
The dialogue in this film is pretty bad at times. It seems almost as if it was written by a computer, and the acting doesn’t help much. DeHaan and Delevingne have zero to no chemistry, and there is a romance that is supposed to be blossoming in there somewhere. It only materializes in substance at the very conclusion of the movie, but by then it’s too late – we’ve just grown accustomed to the lack of love between two characters that love each other, and so the actual emotion draws you further out of what should be an emotional conclusion. There are a few characters that try their best to save it – Ethan Hawke is a lot of fun as Jolly the Pimp (seriously his character’s name), and John Goodman has a solid voice scene as a Jabba the Hutt character. Rihanna, who much was made about being in this film, has another visual reliant role as a shape shifter, but it pulls away from the main story simply to be a visual spectacle. Despite the fact that I enjoyed her scenes, it was completely unnecessary to the main narrative thread.
A movie like Valerian will eventually develop some following, due to its colors and world building. I wouldn’t be surprised if the French comic that the movie is based off of has a second life shortly in America. That being said, I don’t think most people will enjoy the movie. On visuals and the immersive world alone, the movie gets a “C-“.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"