Luc Besson Brings Us Another Colorful Sci-Fi Adventure, If Only The Story Had As Much Meat As The Title…
There’s one thing Luc Besson is great at. Creating dazzling visuals, especially when it comes to science fiction. The writer/director’s signature movies of that drama Lucy and The Fifth Element are two beautifully shot films. The latter of those two being a masterpiece of sci-fi story telling. When it comes to Besson’s latest futuristic adventure, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is closer to Lucy than The Fifth Element. While the world building and dazzling visuals Besson can create are loaded to the top, his latest venture lacks in story and chemistry.
Based on the classic French comic book series Valerian and Laureline, Besson brings the iconic sci-fi tales to life. Dane DeHaan plays Valerian, the best special operative on the titanic space station Alpha. Serving as his partner and object of affection, Cara Delevingne portrays Laureline. Together the two must stop a mysterious dark force that threatens to destroy the home of various united species from a thousand planets. Along the way, there is plenty of colorful aliens and dark underworlds to discover as they unravel the mystery.
Where the film shines is creating this wonderfully lush and colorful universe crammed with diversity. Both in species and locals. Besson introduces us to our heroes by throwing us right into a special mission highjacking a special resource from deep within the heart of a crazy virtual reality digital marketplace. The first act of this film is off the wall sci-fi goodness. The action and world building are sufficient enough to allow you to ignore the fact that the hero of your film just doesn’t feel heroic.
When it comes to casting, DeHaan just isn’t the right choice to play Valerian. He just doesn’t have the hero look or voice. He has the angular face and gruff vocals that ooze villain. There are moments of action where DeHaan is absorbed by the character and you forget who’s in the spacesuit. However, when the action dies down, you’re quickly reminded that DeHaan just doesn’t impress as an intergalactic hero. Furthermore, his chemistry with co-star Delevingne just feels forced.
Aside from lacking chemistry with DeHaan, Delevingne gets the short end of the stick in getting credit as a title character. While the title features Valerian, it’s really Laureline that serves as the catalyst to the heroics. Instead of giving us an extended title that turns some possible viewers off, they could have kept the original comic’s title. Had they kept the name comic strip that inspires the film, the storyline, action, and title would have fit the film better. Delevinge does a decent job fighting off DeHaan’s ridiculous advances for most of the film. Her eye rolls and smirks are exactly how the audience feels about his attempts to woo.
Even with a better lead and more believable chemistry, the film would still struggle from a lackluster storyline. While the film has a great opening act, once our heroes arrive at the City of a Thousand Planets the action quickly dissipates. The only thing that really keeps the audience from dozing off is the amazing visuals Besson presents. That and some decently humorous trio of aliens.
In the end, Valerian just lacks the key ingredients needed to make a great sci-fi adventure. The film still manages to entertain and dazzle thanks to gorgeuous imagery. However, audiences need a bit more in this age of comic book heroes. Besson proved love can save the galaxy once already in 1997. He doesn’t need to try and force us to believe it can happen again. Especially with two leads that have so little chemistry together.
Supchucks’ Official Grade: C+
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Official Synopsis:
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Sam Spruell, and Alain Chabat.
Director(s): Luc Besson
Writer(s): Luc Besson
Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language)
Runtime: 137 minutes