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.
Directed by: Luc Besson
. Starring: Cara Delevingne
, Dane DeHaan
, Elizabeth Debicki
, Ethan Hawke
, John Goodman
, Clive Owen
, Rutger Hauer
, Mathieu Kassovitz
, Aymeline Valade
, Kris Wu
, Emilie Livingston
, Diva Cam
. Music by: Alexandre Desplat
First of all this could have been the most important science-fiction film ever made due to both the passion for the source material by the film's director, as well as how the source material itself is of importance to the world of science-fiction. Strictly visually speaking, so much of what we take for granted in more modern sci-fi material like Star Wars for example, is lifted (stolen?) from the original Valerian designs. The original serial comic strip appeared as a two-page weekly in the pages of European "Pilote" magazine back in the late 60s. Those 2-page serials were collected in story books as "BD" (Bande Dessinée) or graphic novels, and of course captured the imagination of millions who could read french.
Luc Besson has often said that as soon as he wanted to make movies, he wanted to bring Valerian to the big screen. Even his "Fifth Element" could be seen as a trial version to see if he could create an entire universe onto itself and have a story developed and working in a film format. Besson's name is often attached to films in which he produces and writes, and even though he remains too "european" for the majority of the north American audience, it seems many already knew his name as an established writer and film maker.
Valerian opens up with an absolutely incredible visual prologue which also mixes in subtly the opening credits. These first 5 or so minutes is what can only be described as a superb spectacle. In fact it seems be too good to be true and already sets the film's background without any dialogue. But things begin to go South soon afterwards, unfortunately, and even if I do let many things slide in terms of science fiction, in this case it ended falling a bit too flat even though the imagination in the creation of the universe in itself is among-st the best seen in modern cinema.
I essentially have two major gripes with the film, which I again repeat I so desperately tried to overlook throughout the entire film:
1) The Leads: While it is no surprise that in order to make any film work in Hollywood and the major CGI laden blockbusters you need younger and younger leads, Dane (Valerian) and Cara (Laureline) had no chemistry between each other and no on-screen charisma either. Dane sounds like Keannu Reeves and looks 24 years old, and his character is self-centered, aloof, and barely two-dimensional. Cara also looks like she's barely out of high school, is thinner than most anorexic botoxed Hollywood starlets, and plays her character pouting and angry for the majority of the film. OK so maybe this is what Besson or studio meddlings wanted and were pushing for, but the result was not Valerian and Laureline. Instead it seems as though we have these two constantly arguing teenagers which people took too seriously throughout the film. Again, Hollywood-oblige requires younger and younger leads in their films to attract the target audience of moviegoers, but in most cases, it often ends up in questionable casting choices. I am not saying Dane or Cara were bad actors, but maybe this was not a project for them.
2- The Story. Well what do you know, a Hollywood blockbuster with a re-reheated plot overly simplified for the dumbed down American audience, with the audacity of repeating and rephrasing in case you missed what the characters just explained 20 seconds earlier. Maybe I am wrong but I thought science fiction buffs are supposed to be able to easily handle fictional characters, situations, creatures, worlds and such, and don't need their stories re-explained to them at every turn. Maybe it was studio meddling, maybe it was too many re-writes and re-shoots, and maybe it was just because it was aimed at the international (USA America) market, but it featured uninspired dialogue, predictable twists and turns, and none of the smart or witty script writing we would have expected from Luc Besson. In fact, none of this remotely feels like Luc Besson at all, and the result seems to be a by-the-numbers formulae which in the end feels like it just falls flat and short.
Maybe there was just too many expectations riding on this one (my wife and I are fans of both the source material and Besson's work) and maybe there was too much pressure to deliver a product which could be easily consumed by the masses (as all mega-budgeted blockbusters are), but this one falls into that "The Thing 2011 PrequelSequelRemakeWhatever" category (). If it was not a Besson film and not a Valerian film, then it would have been a highly fun ride in a wonderful science fiction universe. I tried desperately to love this film, overlooking the issues described above but in the end, I am very sorry to admit I was disappointed.
(): The Thing 2011 syndrome: it wasn't necessarily a "bad" film but since it was attached to a classic with a deep-rooted cult following, the result becomes less impactful or important due to its association. If The Thing 2011 would have been its stand alone CGI monster fest, it would have worked well, but by commercializing and CGI-ing and modernizing the classic for today's audiences, the product basically fails.
Review by E. Lx from the Internet Movie Database.