In the 28th century, Valerian and Laureline are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the city of Alpha-an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.
/ United Arab Emirates
Directed by: Luc Besson
. Starring: Dane DeHaan
, Cara Delevingne
, Clive Owen
, Ethan Hawke
, Herbie Hancock
, Kris Wu
, Sam Spruell
, Alain Chabat
, Rutger Hauer
, Peter Hudson
, Xavier Giannoli
, Louis Leterrier
. Music by: Alexandre Desplat
All things comic book are unquestionably trendy in the current pop-culture climate. Geek is chic, and so on. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the movie industry, where the comic boom has been going on for close to 20 years now. With all of the -''big" superhero franchises now reaching critical reboot status, execs are scrambling for the new hotness by looking to more obscure properties. And let me tell you, some oddball material has been pulled out of formaldehyde just to wring out that last bit of money from it, with an entire mountain-sized pile of trade paperbacks still waiting to get made.
And in this landslide of comic book to cinema translations, there is one style of graphic novel that has failed to make it to the big screen in any relevant way. I'm talking about the Franco-Belgian style of comics called Bande-Desinee. Although more popular on the Old Continent, Bande-Desinee has influenced not only American and Japanese comics, but movies as well. Dune, Star Wars and Alien, to name a few, all take visual and story elements from the European school of comic books. So it's genuinely interesting to try and understand why it is that BD never really made any kind of splash in the cinema.
Director Luc Besson will try (emphasis on try) to remedy the situation by delivering a big budget, popcorn-muncher, CGI extravaganza of a film called Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets based on the Valerian and Laureline series. Besson is no stranger to BD as he directed the Moebius-inspired Fifth Element and the Adele Blanc Sec adaptation, with countless of his other movies taking smaller BD cues as well. Can Valerian actually muscle its way into the hearts of an international audience, or does it buckle under its own weight?
The introduction to the movie chronicles the rise and growth of a spaceport-turned-hub colony called Alpha from its beginnings in the early 21st century all the way to the 28th century when the story takes place. Alpha is an ever-growing commonwealth that slowly absorbs different alien species and cultures under a single unifying whole. But sinister secrets lurk underneath the surface of the stellar conurbation and it's up to Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), members of a peacekeeping corps that dabbles into super-spy territory, to uncover just what exactly is going on. Seemingly endless action set pieces eventually lead to a government conspiracy to eradicate an alien species, and ends with a tepid conclusion. From the very start, not much can be said about the way Valerian structures its story, because it primarily consists of exposition montages, wannabe-witty character bickering and bafflingly uneventful CGI slideshows.
The movie somehow manages to feel both over-saturated and under- cooked at the same time. It's rich with unnecessary expository detail that gets thrown around in drab, long monologues from characters that fail to have any actual presence in the story. This is made even more damaging by the fact that it is completely clueless on what to do with its characters, and falls back on excruciatingly tired character and dialogue tropes to build up the drama and interpersonal relationships. All of this could have been remedied by a good performance by the cast, but there are failures on this front as well.
De Haan and Delevingne are cast as a romantic duo of charming space rogues with dialogue lifted straight from the most basic of sitcoms. The script delivers little in way of originality or emotion, so a certain level of charisma is expected from the leads and, sadly, both of them fail in excruciating ways.
Delevingne isn't a professional actress, and every single line she delivers serves as a reminder of that fact. Like in The Fifth Element, Besson chose to hire a fashion model as the lead actress, and while an argument can be made that Milla Jovovich exceeded expectation, Delevingne does not. But the bigger disappointment is DeHaan who after his exceptional breakthrough role in Chronicle just can't seem to get a break. DeHaan lumbers through his pseudo- charming lines with the grace of a Bill and Ted-era Keanu Reeves, whenever the poor sod stands next to Delevingne he looks like her kid brother waiting for his turn on the loo, and the movie takes painfully obvious CGI shortcuts whenever any kind of physical action is required of his character. Just like in A Cure for Wellness, the guy simply can't play the leading man in a big budget genre flick. This is a good example of how horrible casting can hurt movies and actors at the same time.
Perhaps in an effort to divert the attention from its other glaring problems, the director tries to wow viewers with a crippling over- reliance on CGI effects. Any atmosphere and style is immediately crushed by an almost obsessive need to bombard every single frame with as much digital clutter as possible. Rather than a stylistic exercise, Valerian feels like a technical one. And even then, it fails to inspire awe and interest. Whole scenes go by with nothing but computer rendered aliens just walking around a digital landscape, or poor action scenes flash before your eyes in a flurry of blurry, unclear animations. Valerian also tries to add current geopolitical themes into its story, but its lack of heart and mind fail to elevate these themes from anything other than a corporate-mandated cliff-note to -''make it relevant".
Valerian simply fails at each and every step of the way. It shows little understanding or even interest in its characters or events, and a misguided approach to effects-driven blockbusters further cripples this emotionless, almost cynical interpretation of what contemporary Sci-Fi should be. Besson's movies have been steadily decreasing in quality, and Valerian just adds to the downward momentum.
Review by ozborovac from the Internet Movie Database.