In the 28th century, special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline work together to maintain order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the minister of defense, the duo embarks on a mission to Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis where diverse species gather to share knowledge and culture. When a dark force threatens the peaceful city, Valerian and Laureline must race against time to identify the menace that also jeopardizes the future of the universe.
Luc Besson’s latest film is a passion project and an expensive one at that with a price tag of $180 million Valerian and the city of a thousand planets soars into theaters alongside Dunkirk this weekend. While Valerian is a beautiful looking space opera with an interesting charisma but it is bogged down by several flaws.
If we’re talking about visuals alone, Valerian far exceeds just about any sci-fi movie I’ve ever seen. What they done here is really incredible and not to be taken lightly. Every frame is beautiful and the CGI accomplishment here is massive. I saw this in IMAX 3D and it didn’t disappoint but visuals are one thing and narrative is another.
For the first half of Valerian I was absolutely hooked, mesmerized in fact. The first half is everything the rest of the movie should have been. About half way in the film becomes this never ending rescue mission Valerian gets in trouble and Lauraline must rescue him. As soon as Valerian is safe then Lauraline is captured and she must be rescued by Valerian. Her rescue involves a strip club scene with Rihanna that was so out of place from the rest of the film that I thought I was watching a music video that was just sewn into the movie. These two rescue sequences feel that they were just good opportunities to showcase the killer visuals that this film has pad the runtime. I would compare it to a side quest in a video game where you are working on completing the main story but you go off to do another minor mission and then come back to the main story, which is exactly what the film does.
Valerian and and Lauraline almost have a very stale and generic feel to them as played by Dane DeHann and Cara Delevingne. I’m not sure if it was the acting or the script that was at fault here but something just felt off. Also these 3 bird characters pictured above were annoying as hell. Rihanna is here for her star power but isn’t bad at all. The main casting issue here is that you never sense much on-screen chemistry between the two leads. Nothing in their performances makes you buy their partnership and romance.
I’m being a bit harsh on Valerian, it’s a fun space movie. That’s pretty much what it is. The graphics alone are enough of an excuse to pay the price of admission. It is fun, I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a “blast” or anything like that, but it is fun. You don’t even notice a lot of these problems until the second half of the film. The first half is exceptional. For me it came to a screeching halt when both of the leads are just spending time rescuing each other. I don’t know if it will make back that massive $180 million dollar price tag but it will find its audience. Other than some cohesiveness problems and some chemistry issues it’s really not a bad time. It’s a fun space film that you can waste a night with eating popcorn and watching on blu-ray. It’s unique and interesting and the visuals outweigh its other issues.