Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer
Director: Luc Besson
Producer: Luc Besson, Virginie Besson-Silla
Writer: Luc Besson
Luc Besson has been waiting to make this movie for sometime now. With a whopping 180 million dollar budget, the director sets out to do something vastly ambitions with Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets. This movie is probably the most risky Sci-fi movie since James Cameroon’s Avatar. The movie takes you on a surreal ride with breathtaking visuals and graphics, which would make Guardians of the Galaxy look shabby. I know what you are thinking- this is amazing. But here’s the catch, in spite of its mind-blowing special effects, the movie falls short of good. It’s lackluster story and characters really fall flat on their faces.
Set in the 28th Century, Dane DeHaan plays the titular character Valerian and Cara Delevinge plays his crime-fighting partner and love interest, Laurine. Valerian is supposed to be a charismatic, charming, swaggering playboy and none of these traits fit the performance. The flirty dialogues between the two were downright cliché and it slowed the movie way-way down. Most of the movie takes place on the beautiful city of Alpha where thousands of species live in co-existence. The visuals of the city and all throughout the movie are phenomenal and boast the original comic’s visual aesthetic, but unfortunately Besson fails to hit the mark with story. The twist was extremely predictable and you can literally see it coming miles away. Luc can definitely create a spectacular CGI space opera but he can’t get the two leads to have good chemistry. DeHaan usually plays the introvert in his previous movies and he’s quite good at it too. Undoubtedly, the casting in this film was way off target.
The opening acts of the movie especially the Big Market scene, showcases the director’s knack for transporting the viewer into a whole diverse world. This movie would have been epic if they’d fixed some of the lingering character flaws and story clichés. Rihanna’s dance routine was a bit over the top, it sort of felt like a Hindi dance routine. The movie suffers from over-convenience. Never do you feel that the characters are in real danger. An explosion or device is always somewhere around the corner to save the leads or get them out of a fix.
The movie is ambitious and tries hard to make you care about the characters. But with little to no backstory, it’s hard to get emotionally invested. It felt like the VFX and CGI were compensating for the lack of a good story and respectable characters. It’s quite a spectacle if you can turn your brain off for a bit and relish the visual imagery but otherwise this space opera is mediocre at the most.