Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets honestly wasn’t half bad. It certainly wasn’t as bad as I expected. I’m not saying it was incredible, it definitely had a multitude of flaws, but I think people need to give it a chance.
There’s no ignoring the immense negativity surrounding Valerian and expectations for a massive flop in the American box office. All the negative press leading up to its release has resulted in a dismissal of the film. Admittedly the trailer for Valerian wasn’t fantastic but that isn’t enough to make a proper opinion of the film; there’s more to it than bad press.
Many rushed to condemn Valerian before its release, claiming it to be a disaster; people tend to be highly critical of films, especially if the media positions them to do so. However, the film is exceeding pessimistic assumptions, as box office numbers rise alongside positive reviews.
If you’re after a a classic American hero blockbuster then this probably isn’t for you. However, Valerian has a strong female character, unique sets and character designs that play homage to European sci-fi; if this sounds appealing, give it a shot.
The film is based on an innovative comic series from the 1920s, written by French author Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mèzières, Valerian and Laureline was as groundbreaking as it was entertaining. Luc Besson, director of films such as Fifth Element and Lucy, fell in love with the series and he wasn’t the only one, with rumours that a considerable amount of George Lucas’ Star Wars was inspired by the comics. Besson quickly became infatuated with Laureline, one of the first kick-ass female comic book characters, and dreamt of becoming Valerian, the charismatic and skillful officer working with Laureline to aid the galaxy.
Besson bided his time until the necessary technology was available for such a large-scale, out-of-this-world story to be told effectively in film, the result of which was released August 10. Valerian stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as the crime-fighting duo of the future, Valerian and Laureline, as they rush to secure the future of Alpha and the galaxy.
I cannot fault the film’s construction of the colourful, inter-galactic world created in the comics. The beautiful and wacky settings of Valerian are a common feature of Besson’s filmography, with captivating graphics that brought the planets to life. I highly recommend seeing it in 3D; it helps you gain a greater appreciation of the stunning settings and costume designs. On top of the enriched visuals, Rhianna’s highly-anticipated performance as Bubbles was fantastic and made the film more entertaining while highlighting the elegance of modern special effects.
The main issue I encountered with this film is the ‘romantic’ relationship of the two main characters. In the comic books their chemistry flies off the pages with banter that simply falls flat in the film. Their opening scene together is appalling, with the cringe-inducing, and supposedly sexual-tension infused, physical banter. Keep in mind that it gets better.
It’s no secret to comic fans that the characters are romantically involved, as they are one of the most iconic couples of European comics, however for others the sudden lurch into Valerian’s proposal and pursuance of marriage might feel incredibly rushed, as well as rather old-fashioned for such a futuristic setting. The pair make a great team, taking turns to save the other from peril, but struggle to convince that there is anything between them other than the fact they’ve spent too long on a spaceship together and Laureline (Cara Delevigne) is finally lowering her standards.
I was originally apprehensive about Delevigne being cast in this film, as her stilted and bland past performances have left me completely underwhelmed. However, in Valerian she surprised me. It certainly wasn’t Oscar worthy—far from it. Perhaps her stern and unreactive facial expressions suited her character’s militaristic occupation, with dashes of emotion that caught me off guard and prevented the complete desecration of Laureline’s legacy.
When it comes to Dane DeHann I can’t decide whether it was his acting, the directing, or the god-awful lines he had to say (just wait for this lady killer: “I’d die for you”) that led to me slightly despising Valerian more than I was supposed to. Valerian is meant to be intelligent, a lady’s man, but overall charismatic and charming—a movie character I thought I would hate to love or vice versa. Instead he came off as a tool, giving me great pleasure whenever one of his romantic advances towards Laureline was dismissed or down-right shut down.
Despite the lack of chemistry between the two and the interesting portrayal of Valerian the film wasn’t half bad. The creatures are interesting and the settings are beautiful, combined with a plot that is intriguing but a little clunky at times. Instead of having a stereotypical macho male hero and a sexualised female side kick, Valerian and Laureline are a team which, despite its flaws, made this film a nice break from the conventional crime-fighting hero films.