So apparently Valerian is the science fiction of all science fiction culture, it has inspired the like of Star Wars and The Fifth Element, another film that Luc Besson has directed, but possibly like many of you seeing this film, I had no idea was Valerian was. This gives Luc Besson a chance to introduce this galactic world to outsiders and give us a compelling science fiction story to prove to use why this is the penultimate science fiction comic. I certainly left wanting to find out more about this world, but as a cohesive film, Valerian does unluckily fall victim to the science fiction traps of using genre clichés to repair its problems.
I must first applaud the film for having great creative people behind its adaptation, this shows through the films visual design. The city of Alpha looks amazing and, although this is done through exposition, the film takes the time to detail this city, something that most films nowadays would rush through. I feel that Valerian wants its audience to be sucked into this world and garners the viewers’ attention by making the universe expansive and vast, this is where Valerian does well for a science fiction film as an interesting universe makes up for a moderate percentage of audience satisfaction during the viewing of this film.
The vast amount of costumes that feature in Valerian shows its audience just how focused the film is on styling. Each costume for the character of Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) looks very impressive with their selective backdrops and each accessory for the costumes is explained crystal clear and are described as if they were spy gadgets. Furthermore, the imagination behind Valerian is glorified in the variety of the films exposed colour palette. The locations are very vivid with a mixture of intense and dark colours that makes the surrealness of Valerian more surreal.
You may be more than satisfied with Dane DeHaan’s performance as Valerian. I felt at time there was some confusion to character identity, at time it was unclear if Valerian was a space officer with a cowboy wit about him or a space cowboy, renegade type with an officer wit. Nevertheless, Dave DeHaan’s performance come through, especially alongside Cara Delevingne who’s very recent start in acting has managed her best performance to date, although we would have to see what else she can pull out of the bag in the future to have a firm assessment.
During the promotional campaign, Valerian set out to be this big sci-fi epic to match its comics legacy, I never expect at times for the film to go very light-hearted as it did during the third act. Crossing that sacred boundary of tonal shifts is a big no-no for blockbusters, it leaves the audience still curious as to what it is they are watching and most films that build themselves up as an epic get this all-important part wrong. With Valerian, the change effect the film less than usual, but that tone shift is still enough for us to alter our perspective on the film.
It’s agreeable amongst the many that this film would not be possible without the usage of CGI, however, because of the onslaught of computer generated imagery, the film struggles to find consistency in quality. There are times where the CGI is impressive from a distance and other times where it is on Spy Kids level of absurdity. The characters stand out from their blue screen environments so much due to a lack of correct lighting, it is painfully obvious.
The film never gets off to a good start either. The film spends too much time establishing a peaceful world that it overplay’s the points it has already made. Audiences only need seconds not minutes to understand that the planet Mül is at peace. I would say the opposite for its destruction but even this critical point suffers from the same problem. This pacing of telling us important narrative points results in a need for the story to start. For 20 minutes, I was asking myself when the story of Valerian actually begins because it’s difficult to pin down a certain time when pieces start gluing together. Luckily Valerian does, in its own time, answer this.
I have previously mentioned that Valerian has inspired many of the greatest science fiction films in the history of cinema. With that said, what films like Star Wars and Blade Runner had were both interesting characters and an interesting universe that felt alive. While Valerian nails the universe part, the characters that have to accompany Valerian and Laureline are rinse and repeat character profiling. Look at the most popular science fiction films in cinema, you can identify each character by name alone and it immediately springs to memory as to what that character is like and how they are different form basic character sheets. With Valerian, this is a near impossibility because of the common traits we see time and time again.
For all the many sleazy flaws that Valerian has however, Luc Besson can hold his head held high in the knowledge that Valerian will be able to get many curious fans into the comics to learn more about Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’ groundbreaking tales. But for a well-structured and sewn together film, it unfortunately misses the mark. Every cloud has a silver lining though so be prepared to see Valerian cosplay at future comic cons.
Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average
Have you seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: A Ghost Story