Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets - 2017
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets marks the return of what many call a visionary writer/director in Luc Besson. I have been a fan of Besson ever since I was a kid – well, when you’re young you don’t really pay attention to who made the movie you love but you learn to appreciate the artist more as you grow older. I can’t say how many times I have watched The Professional and The Fifth Element during my formative years, but it’s fair to say it’s in the double digits. Safe to say I was excited for his next installment, the same source material that inspired The Fifth Element and his ultimate passion project. The film is based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline.
I’m going to say this upfront to save time for my readers: there are a lot of elements and sequences within this movie that I absolutely loved, but the overall product I did not. So, how about we just jump right in.
This movie opens with a montage of how the city mentioned in the title is formed, with the ever-perfect Space Oddity by David Bowie playing over the images. What follows it are by far my favorite scenes of the movie. We are thrown into an unknown world where they barely speak a language, but we as an audience perfectly understand what is happening. The reason I consider these my favorite scenes of the movie are for two clear reasons. One, it was just flat out beautiful to look at. The colors of the white sandy beaches, the bodies of the aliens and how they glow with a touch was a sight for sore dark CGI’s eyes of recent memory. The second and most important, it felt like a silent movie. They depend on body language, gestures and how they look at each other to communicate to the audience the story they want to convey. I would love to see an entire movie of this world and their lives.
One aspect that I loved from this movie was the creature design. While it doesn’t have the crazy amount that the title suggests, the animators were in charge of creating a large amount of alien creatures. I read an article that they designed around 200 creatures for this movie and I truly hope they receive the praise they deserve. My favorites where the Shingouz since they were funny and reminded me of the cockroaches from Men in Black. Close second are the… I won’t remember the name but they fish out Laureline and they weirdly remind me of the Magalore from Fifth Element even though they don’t look that much alike.
Walking into Valerian, I was confident in Dane DeHaan and skeptical of Cara Delevingne, since the last movie I saw from her was Suicide Squad, but I was shocked that the worst part from the leads was actually DeHaan. For some reason, he decided that his character needed to have a deep and “cool” voice that felt forced and out of place. Not for one second did I buy him as this ultimate soldier and badass, let alone that he was madly in love with Cara. It just completely took me out of the movie. On the other hand, I was surprised by Cara and her ability to be both likable and tough. Sadly, she wasn’t strong enough as a co-lead to carry this movie when it came to the acting. I was happy to see Clive Owen back on screen, but he was doing his best Nicolas Cage impression, so my happiness quickly disappeared. Quick note, Rihanna aka RIRI is an amazing singer/song-writer, but she is a flat-out terrible actress, please stop.
Valerian also suffers from too much noise and not enough substance. Once the aliens from the opening sequence came on for the third act, I was back on board, but during the second act I was checked-out. The actions our leads take just felt forced and unnecessary. They only did what they did as an excuse to showcase the weird and odd world they lived in instead of the actions servicing the story. Quick note: with a movie like this one would think the score and the sound effects would be over the top, but they are barely noticeable and underwhelming.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is considered the most expensive independent movie ever produced. While it shows in the final product, having an abundance of beauty through the CGI, it severely lacks in creative storyline, sound-design, score and acting. This movie is not bad and its certainty a movie that is needed to be seen in theaters, but it’s just not the Besson I wanted to see. The worst critique I can give this movie is that I got bored during the spectacle of it all. Despite this not being his best outing, him taking this huge risk and producing this blockbuster indie deserves my money. Besson is why I love movies.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is currently in theaters. It may have a thousand flaws but I still loved Besson visuals. Support this indie if you can.
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