Continuing the blockbuster tradition of blowing the budget on visuals.
BY John Blackburn
Sci-fi adventures have always been a massive and fantastic genre in the film industry. Through many of these films, like the first Star Wars film back in the late 70s, audiences love to be sucked into the creative world the filmmakers have built in outer space for the big screen, host to relatable or likeable characters we can connect with on a suspenseful journey. Most recently, Luc Besson, director of The Fifth Element, decided to adapt the French graphic novel that influenced a lot of sci-fi for the past 50 years- Valerian and Laureline. And while it is a creative visual experience, its many flaws are not invisible to the naked eye.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets stars Dane DeHann as Major Valerian, a space agent who along with his partner and love interest Laureline (Cara Delevigne) have been assigned to save Alpha- The City of a Thousand Planets- from an unknown alien threat. It did have a strong start, using little dialogue to explain the origin of the Alpha city, as well as the culture of a certain type of humanoid race through visuals. In fact, the cinematography and visuals in general are incredible throughout the film, they help create an amazing environment. However, this is negated by the reveal of the main characters.
DeHann’s character, Valerian, claims to have been a soldier for 7 years, yet he seems more like an emo teenager doing a Keanu Reeves impression. It looks like a massive miscast in the film, where the main role would be more suitable for someone like Bruce Willis or Tom Hardy. Delevigne’s acting wasn’t great either. She failed to show any emotion in her performance or her voice, especially in the action scenes. And side note – just because you act with little emotion doesn’t make you a badass agent – it just makes you uninterested in the film’s situations, and if you’re not interested in those situations, why should the viewer be?
The way Delavigne’s character is written is also inconsistent. For example, (SPOILER ALERT) she starts out as an independent soldier, perfectly capable of defending herself, yet later she is captured by an alien race and forced to be a servant. She is equipped with a phaser throughout the ordeal- yet when Valerian gets caught in the same exact way, he actually uses his own phaser to set himself free.
On top of that, the plot aims to focus on the alien threat that’s destroying the city, yet the film stops in its tracks, and spends the majority of its duration time on side missions, and some of them don’t make a lot of sense. For example, a particularly bizarre scene in which (SPOILER ALERT) Laureline has to put her head inside a special jellyfish, taken from the back of a giant male fish, in order to find out where Valerian is. But how does the Jellyfish know about Valerian, if it was on the back of a different fish? And why didn’t Laureline ask about it either? Several elements of the plot are not adequately explained.
The visuals are amazing, as it builds up a really creative sci-fi world to get lost into, but combine that with the awful acting, inconsistent errors, and a weak plot structure, and you have a not-so-grand masterpiece. I do feel bad for Director Besson, as this does have potential, but a little more of the budget needed to go towards the most important aspect of any film – the screenplay.