Since the debut teaser trailer that popped on the scene eight months ago, I have been mildly intrigued by this movie. And I will say with confidence that with each new trailer, my excitement with for this movie grew. Adding “Gangsta’s Paradise” in the final trailer was a really good marketing move. When I first heard it, I had to confirm it with my buddy before I geeked out. Couple that song with bright, vivid visuals and the ability to captivate me with the lore and concepts made it a must to catch the movie.
So I ultimately walked into this movie with pretty moderate expectations. And no… I hadn’t read the books or the graphic novels. I had never heard of Valerian until the movie debuts so I was walking completely blind.
Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets, at the time of writing this review (which is a day later), has been at odds. I find myself struggling on whether I can recommend someone to go out and see this in theaters. I say this having seen the movie with a few of my friends and we left the theater feeling pretty good. The audience that I was with also received it pretty well.
The problem is that I can’t really distinguish between the movie itself and the world that the movie presents to the audience. I will try my best to explain what I mean. See, what Valerian does really well is world building. From the opening cinematic to the credits at the end, Luc Besson is a genius at presenting the audience with space where you can lose yourself. Outside of the jaw dropping visuals and set pieces that are truly stunning to look at and the vast number of creatures and people that populate the world, the movie ultimately impresses with the how everything works in a seemingly realistic fashion in a fantasy setting.
Alpha is explained in the trailer as a city of a thousand planets, which is explained in the beginning of the movie and this explanation makes sense. The concepts of how all these different species and races coexist in this central hub are simply fascinating. For example, the movie does a good job of showing how each part of Alpha is split into different sections with different species utilizing their strength to make the city more functional and operational. The idea of having worlds that can only be accessed through certain means and channels (without going into spoiler territory) and the way politics played a role in certain decisions and aspects makes the movie seem not only believable but somewhat obtainable. Even the technology makes practical sense. These things all come to together to make you fall head over heels in that aspect. It felt real and that is hard to pull off.
And seeing this world through the eyes of Valerian, who is played by Dane DeHaan and Laureline, who is played by Cara Delevingne, was a surprisingly good treat despite some of the dialogue between the two. They really had chemistry on screen together and their interactions with each other and those around them keep the movie upbeat where I feared the movie might get a bit stale.
However, in the same notion, some of their lines were just bland. In a way, I would like to say those lines that felt bland because they did not seem to fit their characters. An example of this is the way they spoke their lines did not fit their ages. Sometimes they were just too cliche and predictable. I tend to lend on the negative as a hit towards the script more so than the actors but that’s just me. Also, it is hard because I don’t know if this something that is part of the source material. I only have the movie to judge. If you decide to see it, make sure to stop by and let me know if you got the same vibe.
The villain of the movie is forgettable at best. Talking about him in any capacity is a waste of time because you will realize early on where the plot is heading. This isn’t a spoiler.
On the topic of characters, let’s go ahead and address Rihanna. For what it was, I enjoyed the segments that she was in. The scene that is kind of shown to you in the trailer is mesmerizing for the right reasons. Or perhaps the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, her character had a purpose and even though it felt a bit forced, she had some touching moments. Sadly, I can tell you will only see her as Rihanna which can break the immersion.
A glaring issue that I had with the film was that it did not need to be two hours long. Towards the later parts of the movie, I found myself checking the time and that is never a good sign. With that type of run time, you want to be engrossed all the way through and I can say that didn’t happen for me.
The soundtrack is usually something I pay attention to and this film has nothing that really stands out except for the score that plays when Valerian is running through the different spaces. (The scene from the trailer.)
So with all things considered, I want this movie to do well because I want to see where these characters in this amazing world go next. It has inspired me to go check out the novels because the movie was fun overall. Creatively, this franchise has so much potential and because of that potential, it left me wanting more. Not only from this film but going forward.
My favorite two scenes in the movie are in the beginning. The first is the beautiful set piece with one of the alien races which conveys so much without using language. The second is the very next set piece because of the concentrated concepts and ideas that work so well on screen. Both scenes are filled with wonder and this is where the movie truly shines.
Sadly, the beginning is the highlight of the film and it is not able to maintain the bar it sets. The storytelling is where this movie falls short. Some will say that you can replace the two leads and it would have given us a better movie, but I feel like they did okay and I would like to see them reprise their roles. (Perhaps, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence could have done this instead of Passengers. Just a thought. It was actually a joke I made coming out of the theater.)
My Verdict: Go check it out in theaters. There is enough there to leave you genuinely entertained and it quite possibly might have you checking out the source material after you see it. Visually, it is worth the experience inside of the theater. The imagination that was put into this film is leagues above anything I have seen this year and on that merits alone, you should be satisfied.