‘Valerian’ is a Beautiful Looking Mess

Valerian_and_the_City_of_a_Thousand_PlanetsHollywood needs to stop trying to make Cara Delevingne happen, she’s never going to happen.

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” (I won’t be typing all that this whole review) is based on the French comic series and stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as two space cops in the future who must go on the run to rescue their commander after he is taken prisoner by a mysterious enemy (or something like that, the plot of this film is a mess). Clive Owen, Rihanna (you read that right) and Ethan Hawke also star as Luc Besson writes and directs.

I’m not a fan of Luc Besson’s films; for my money, he’s never made a single good one. I appreciate him to a certain extent as a visual filmmaker and for trying to keep his productions as un-reliant on American studio money as possible and funding everything through his French production company, EuropaCorp. In fact this film cost $209 million (or €197 million), and since it was all Besson’s individual money or through small investors, it is by definition the most expensive independent film ever made. Clearly Besson was trying to create “Star Wars” for a new generation, but this generation already has their own “Star Wars” films and it’s 2017; audiences (at least Americans, where it predominantly counts) don’t care about your film just looking pretty anymore. And “Valerian” certainly looks pretty, and has flashes of fun and originality that did make the original “Star Wars” a hit back in 1977, and if you’re a style-over-substance person than there may be enough here for you.

I’ll start with the good and that’s that the visuals and some of the production design here really are gorgeous and creative. Besson stretches his $200 million budget to the brim with some cool special effects, implementing over 2,300 of them (by comparison, a film like “Rogue One” has about 1,700 visual effects shots). There is almost the “Star Wars” feel with all the different planets and species (and I hate to keep referencing that series but Besson himself has said that he’s trying to copy that franchise and create his own universe, there’s even a scene where the heroes escape into a trash compactor), and the initial exploring of all the worlds was engrossing.

The action is pretty fun, too, and since it’s space guns with lasers and not bullets we’re able to get it shot a lot cleaner and from a nice angle, not shaky-cam or zoomed too much in like most PG-13 films fall victim too. The first hour of this film is genuinely a very entertaining ride and it’s just a shame the second half couldn’t follow suit.

Like I said up top, I couldn’t describe the plot of this film if you had a gun to my head. I saw it an hour ago and I’m struggling to think of actual plot points that occurred. Things just kind of happen as an excuse for Besson to film something he thinks would be cool or be with actors he wants to work with.

And speaking of the actors…

I like Dane DeHaan, I think he is a talented young actor, but he is horribly miscast here. I didn’t buy him for a second as the badass cool guy, and he doesn’t have the body type or the charisma to pull off being the Han Solo ripoff Besson clearly wrote the role as. His performance in-it-of-itself is fine, but once he has to interact with Delevingne (blah in her own right), all bets are off that you won’t cringe (they’re no Han and Leia).

Rihanna and Ethan Hawke are also both in this for a few scenes and I’m not sure if they lost bets or owed Besson a favor or what but both really will pray to wipe this from their filmography ASAP. Hawke is over-the-top but at least looks like he’s enjoying himself as much as he can, and Rihanna (who plays a shape-shifting alien and spends half the film in motion capture) just needs to stick to singing, or at least comedy, as she did a good job playing herself in “This Is the End.”

I wouldn’t say “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a bad movie and I wouldn’t say that it’s good. It is kind of in the middle, and if you’re a person who likes your film to look pretty and don’t care about plot then I think that this will work. I can see this developing a cult following in the future similar to Besson’s other film, “The Fifth Element,” if for no other reason than it is ludicrous and ambitious (while also ripping off every space film of the past 40 years). I enjoyed it in bursts and was never bored so to speak (more so confused) and if the film was shorter and ended on a higher note then I would say it is worth checking out; but at 137 minutes (a full minute longer than “The Force Awakens”) I can’t say that the film justifies itself enough for a whole hearted recommendation.

Critics Rating: 6/10

STX Entertainment

2 thoughts on “‘Valerian’ is a Beautiful Looking Mess

    1. Admittedly have not seen either of them. I know everyone loves “Leon” (there’s only so many movies you can watch) and I actually have never heard of “Nikita” but it looks interesting, I’ll try to check it out. But all of Besson’s post-2000 films are usually pretty bad (“The Family” and “Lucy” are abysmal)


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