Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review
Inventiveness doesn’t equal good. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is Luc Besson’s latest attempt to return to the glory days of the 1990’s—you know, back when he was making good movies and not sci-fi duds about creatures who shit energy bubbles and a title character who spends much of his time sexually harassing his scantily clad partner.
Valerian boasts elements that are reminiscent of Besson’s most popular film—The Fifth Element—but unlike that cult classic, Valerian lacks star power, character development, story and entertainment value. Valerian is two hours and fifteen minutes of overly long, poorly written, and tonally flat sequences that get progressively worse, culminating in a climax so stupid, so unremarkable, so utterly lame you have to wonder where this movie’s nearly $200 million budget went.
But hey, at least it looks pretty.
Valerian has some good visual effects and its creature design is imaginative. For a little while, it’s just unique-looking enough to keep you intrigued, never actually good but hinting at something more-never-to-be-realized that keeps you fooled long enough so that you don’t walk out half an hour in and demand your money back from some poor high school kid who is snickering at the fact that you paid money to see this floating pile of space shit.
The action is largely bland and inconsequential, in part because most of the story involves its two leads—who are supposed to be amazing government agents—stumbling into situations that advance the plot but also establish that neither of these two are actually good at their job. For some reason, Besson decided to cast Dane DeHaan—uninspiring as an action lead—and Cara Delevingne, who looks really damn good in the various outfits the costume designers give to her (she spends the first 30 minutes of the movie in two different bikini-type outfits for some unspecified reason) but who is actually supposed to be an actress here, which in this alternative world means rolling her eyes, choking out stilted dialogue that may be her fault but is probably the tepid screenplay’s, and sort of denying the unwanted-but-sort-of-wanted sexual advances from her sleazy, obnoxious partner.
The Fifth Element was a beautiful film, creatively told with a unique, memorable story. It starred Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich and Gary Oldman as defined, memorable and creative characters. Valerian is beautiful, but its story—which, I shit you not, is about government agents trying to transport a little cat-lizard thing who shits out loads of whatever it eats—is about as lame as stories about shitting cat-lizards tend to be, and its characters and the actors who play them have no chemistry with each other or the audience.
Valerian is horribly written, and the whole thing just gets progressively worse as it meanders along. The film takes a turn for the worse when Rihanna shows up for some unknown fucking reason—other than the movie sucks anyway so why not have Rihanna—playing a character—again, I shit you not—called Bubble. She performs an entire striptease dance, which could have been cut entirely to spare at least two minutes of my life, but the movie doesn’t really start to freely evoke unintentional laughter until later when DeHaan and Delevingne attempt to talk emotions and other feels with each other and just end up sounding stupid in the process. When your final line is the utterly unromantic “I want you to be the only one on my playlist,” fuck off. Baby Driver maybe could have pulled that off, but not Luc Besson.
Valerian is ambitious, but in all the wrong ways. Take away the pretty veneer and you’re left with an awfully written shell of a movie, featuring two bland stars playing two bland characters trapped in a bland story with bland action scenes. It may appear inventive, but it sure as hell isn’t good.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.