7.23.2017

Movies: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna
Directed By: Luc Besson
Written By: Luc Besson (screenplay); Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières (comic books)
Europa, 2017
PG-13; 137 minutes
2.5 stars (out of 5)


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Look, it's not . . . terrible. It's just not amazing, either, and movies like this need to be amazing.

I haven't read the comic books, so I can't speak to whether this film does them justice. I can only comment on how this movie does on its own. And that is: okay.

First, the story: 30 years after the destruction of the planet Mül, Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline are given a mission to confiscate a Mül "converter" which is really a cute little creature that, if you feed it things, it poops out lots more of whatever you just fed it. So people are mostly interested in feeding it things like money and jewels. And with the Human economy in the toilet, the government could really use something like that. Cuz I guess just printing more money or something isn't an option.

Converter acquired (after a certain amount of fuss, of course), Valerian and Laureline take it to Alpha, the titular City of a Thousand Planets. Strange things are afoot there as Commander Filitt (Clive Owen) tries to suss out why a radioactive area has suddenly appeared in the center of this station.

Nothing in this movie comes as a surprise; it's fairly rote, a kiddie roller coaster that stays on its tracks and doesn't even go very fast. My eight-year-old loved it. The remainder of my family walked out shrugging. Meh.

Problem areas include:

  • Zero chemistry between the two leads.
  • Clunky, poorly written banter between the two leads.
  • Lack of tension in any scene—action or otherwise.
  • Valerian's "arc" feels fake; we're supposed to believe he's a changed man by the end of the movie, but he doesn't seem any different from when we first meet him.
  • Aforementioned predictability.
  • Lost opportunities that I will discuss under the spoilers heading below.

I didn't really have any expectations going in, so I can't say I was disappointed. I just failed to be wowed.

SPOILERS BELOW

We spend some time on Mül before it is destroyed, and Valerian is then imbued with the soul of the dead princess Lïhio, something that is hardly utilized during the rest of the movie. At the very least, have Laureline call him "Your Highness" or something. Geez.

And after all the talk of the beach, the movie ends with them in some space capsule?
                           
END SPOILERS

The best parts of the movie are the ones without Valerian, or at the very least the ones in which Valerian and Laureline are apart. What does that tell you? DeHaan seemed to be trying for "Discount Leonardo DiCaprio"? For all I know, he's a fabulous actor, but Valerian is not a particularly likable character (and maybe he's not meant to be, maybe the comic character is just as bad), and since, as I mentioned, Valerian's "growth" as a character feels nil in this film, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about him or DeHaan.

In all, Valerian has very little energy behind it. It moves quickly enough from plot point to plot point, but there's no tension. I can't tell if it's the lack of chemistry between the actors, or the weak dialogue, or some combination thereof, but this movie needs a shot in the arm that never comes. Instead it just bobs along . . . Again, it's not the worst thing ever. It's just not all that exciting either.