SO MUCH POTENTIAL
Film Review by Fiore
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, heretofore referred to as simply VALERIAN, is a bit of a letdown, considering all the expectations it contained. First, Director and Writer Luc Besson is returning to space. He is responsible for one of the most iconic sci-fi films with THE FIFTH ELEMENT. VALERIAN was compared to THE FIFTH ELEMENT in the film’s pre-release publicity. VALERIAN boasted an enormous budget and top-notch SFX and camera techs.
In these aspects, VALERIAN does not disappoint. As a member of the press corps, I saw the film in 3D. It is spectacular in its visual presentation. Production Designer Hugues Tissandier and cameraman extraordinaire Thierry Arbogast combine to create an amazing array of aliens, ships and extraterrestrial locales and dimensions. Visually, VALERIAN is a smorgasbord of lights, colors and sights.
What submarines the film is the script. While it is based on a popular graphic novel (series of comic books), it moves too slow. Without the visual effects, VALERIAN could cause drowsiness in its plodding unveiling of plot. The story, too, offers nothing new. It is a cookie-cutter template of old fashioned sci-fi tales. The plot, subplots and plot points are all standard. The underlying propaganda is anti-military and anti-human. While these topics are typical for the genre, something a bit more creative should be revealed, especially with this type of budget, which was reported as 197,000,000 Euros. There are even a few scenes, like the bar scene and the trash heap scene, that are purloined directly from STAR WARS.
The lead characters are also problematic. Dane DeHaan as the title character and Cara Delevingne as Sergeant Laureline are non-descript. Their acting performances are flat and mundane. As presented, they both offer performances worthy of a high school production, making none of their dialogue vivacious.
Let’s take a look at the report card for VALERIAN:
1.1 ACTING = D
1.2 CINEMATOGRAPHY = A
1.3 SOUND/MUSIC = B
1.4 EDITING = C
1.5 LIGHTING = C
1.6 SCRIPT = F
1.7 SFX = A
1.8 ACTION = B
Major Valerian and his partner Sgt. Laureline are not only partners for the federation police, they are also star-crossed lovers. During a procurement assignment of stolen property, they stumble upon a massive conspiracy involving the military and the genocide of a peaceful planet. In an effort to prevent war and further genocide, the couple must fight odds to reveal the conspiracy.
Starring with DeHaan and Delevingne are: Clive Owen as Commander Arun Filjitt, the antagonist; Rihanna, who is delicious as the shape-shifting Bubble; and Ethan Hawke, who also shines in a cameo as Jolly the Pimp; Herbie Hancock, seen only on a video screen as the Defense Minister; and Rutger Hauer, who merely delivers a speech as the President of the World State Federation.
1.9 KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. RETREVAL OF THE CONVERTER
2. RIHANNA’S SONG AND DANCE
If you enjoy visual extravaganzas, VALERIAN will meet and surpass expectations. If you’re looking for the visuals to compliment a good story and solid characters, VALERIAN will leave you wanting. Editor Julien Rey leaves an unnecessary forty minutes in the movie, making the disconnect even more harmful.
When stars with cameos upstage the main actors, there is a significant problem, and Rihanna, Hawke and Owen all do just that.
VALERIAN’s conclusion is stale. After a crescendo of two hours, the climax is predictable and covered with lame sauce. Besson may have realized his dream of making a celluloid version of his favorite comic, and was bestowed with a nice budget, but this effort isn’t worthy of the anticipation.