Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets – A Beautiful Mess of a Movie

I’ve been amped for Valerian for a while with it’s campy style and balls to the wall visuals.

Directed by French Director Luc Besson, director of “Leon”, “The Transporter” franchise and most importantly “The Fifth Element”, the movie oozes eccentricities everywhere. Luc grew up on the French comic Valérian et Laureline as a kid, and from the very first scenes of the movie you can see that he’s lovingly brought this 60s sci-fi comic book to life.

Since Luc was filming on a green screen for the majority of the film you can see he really owned the fact that his imagination was the only limitation. The world he’s adapted is amazing, and every moment spent in it presents a new little mystery or an awesome idea. It’s a world I instantly wanted to revisit the moment the film was over.

Eagle eyed viewers will also see that Lexus is still alive and kicking in the future. Lexus engineers teamed up with the Valerian creative team to create the SKYJET used in a chase sequence of the film. The SKYJET design also incorporates an adapted interpretation of Lexus’ signature “spindle” grille, and a similar headlight design to that of the 2018 Lexus LC coupe.

So he’s checked off one of the two boxes this movie needed to fly, the visual extravaganza and excitement. The second half, which required more deft of hand nuance were the characters, and it’s at this point where they fall flat.

Valerian played by Dane DeHaan comes across as an 18 year old with the huskiest voice I’ve ever heard, and his partner, Laureline played by Cara Delevine plays his Fiancee/girlfriend sidekick. Beyond all the action is them trying to sort out their personal lives together and whether they’ll get married.

I haven’t read the source material yet, but it’s my understanding that in the comics the pair were already married, and a draw card is that they’re a regular couple, navigating their life together while also exploring strange worlds and solving crimes and mysteries. This is an awesome combo, and I think pulling this off would have made it a unique film that delivers action for the boys and character drama for the girls making it a perfect date night film.

Instead it feels more like a romance written by a primary school kid who hasn’t quite figured out what a girl is yet. Loving banter doesn’t appear to by Luc’s strong suit as the pair come across as juvenile Han Solo’s.

Apparently they’re meant to play two strongly different archetypes. Valerian the eye on the prize soldier who doesn’t shirk his duty, and Laureline, who thinks more with her heart and plays by her own rules.

But the pair are both psychopaths, which isn’t wholly unusual for action heroes, gunning down anyone in their way. But just after killing an alien king after expressly noting that doing so would cause an international crisis Valerian tells Laureline that he sticks to the rules. This jarring line sounded more like a joke, as if he hadn’t been around for the last two hours of his own movie.

There are a bunch of lazy plot developments that are ham handedly chucked in, undeveloped possibly due to being cut to make way for Rihanna’s spectacular pole dance routine.

I want this movie to fly, it has so many cool concepts it left me pinging with creative energy. But these are going to be tough sells for a general audience, and many people will be left a bit pissed off at the writing. The villain is fun and interesting and probes into our failures as a race, once again being a tough sell. One that Wonder Woman couldn’t bring itself to face, opting instead for a dumb boss fight.

I love the idea of a cocky young married couple exploring the universe together. It’s not a dynamic I think I’ve ever seen in a movie before. Usually the characters need to be single to have any fun.

I really hope I see them again though, with a couple slight adjustments. Peace.

Cara Delevinge stars in Luc Besson’s ” Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”.
Photo credit: Vikram Gounassegarin

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