Original Title: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Director: Luc Besson
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
04.03.2020: This review was first published on 04.07.2018 and is being updated for a more complete review, together with the publishing of the YouTube Version.
Hello There! Welcome to Ulven Reviews!
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a French production directed by Luc Besson. It tells one of the stories of Major Valerian and Sargent Laureline, this time in a mission to rescue a kidnapped Commander.
The comics Valérian and Laureline wrote by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières inspired Valerian’s director Luc Besson through his career, something especially noticeable in his 1997 film The Fifth Element.
In 2017, the adaptation of the comics finally came to life, with a respectable budget of around 180 million American dollars, allowing the casting of some big names like Clive Owen, Rutger Hauer, Ethan Hawke, and the Pop Star Rihanna.
More than the art we love, movies are part of an industry and must bring profit to the production company. According to Newsweek, Valerian needed to gross at least 400 million dollars to worth the investment made by the production company, but it only earned 225 million dollars worldwide.
Like many of the viewers, I’m not worried about big companies’ profits, but when a movie flops in the box office, it makes the probability of a franchise or a sequel smaller. But I’ll talk more about it later in the review.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Beginning in 2020, a space station in Earth’s gravity, receiving people from many nations, and later several worlds from across the galaxies. That was the foundation of Alpha, the city of a thousand planets.
Eventually, Alpha detaches from Earth’s gravity, traveling to unknown regions of the universe. The many species in the station work together and exchange knowledge, allowing for the city to function.
The film has a second introduction so to speak, on the spectacular planet Mül (not related to the Norwegian Doom Metal band, I guess). The Princess Lïhio-Minaa (played by Sasha Luss), is chilling in the beach and multiplying pearls with her little animal friend when tragedy struck.
After that, we finally meet the protagonist, Major Valerian (played by Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (played by Cara Delevingne) in a mission to rescue Commander Arun Filitt (played by Clive Owen), and how all of that ties to what happened in Mül.
Valerian has one of the most awesome openings I can remember. It lasts for about 12 minutes, hinting at a good film ahead of us, but that’s not the case.
The movie is too convoluted, the characters have a lot to do, but they never give us some time to breathe. It doesn’t get as far as to be confusing, but still a mess. It’s action after action and not always compelling.
In addition to that, everything that happens is absurdly predictable. There are attempts at a plot twist, I guess, but I can’t remember any moment where I was left surprised by some outcome or revelation.
For example, the peaceful people of Mül kidnap Commander Arun Filitt, and we think he must have deserved it because he’s a piece of shit. It’s very natural to guess that he has something to do with the disaster of the planet shown in the beginning.
Talking about Commander Arun Filitt, he’s an awful character, there’s nothing to like about him, except for Clive Owen’s performance. I know he’s a villain, but even villains must have something interesting. For example, the incredibly smart Grand Admiral Thrawn, who most recently appeared in Star Wars Rebels.
I liked the two leading characters and also the performance of the actors. Dane DeHaan is flawless as in every role I ever saw from him, and Cara Delevigne is not near as bad as some people say she is. To me, her performance was good enough, especially considering almost everyone on screen with her are awesome professionals.
By far, my favorite aspect of the film is the astonishing appearance. Almost every place in the movie is beautiful or at least served the intended purpose. So, if a location is ugly, it’s to convey a marginalized ambient or something along these lines.
The score is generic. I think if you swap Valerian’s music with the music of any other big-budget film, not many people would notice the difference. Unfortunately, that’s something that can be said about many movies.
Even after saying that the movie is not very good storywise, I would love a sequel and even a long franchise, because there is so much underdeveloped potential. So many worlds and alien species to explore.
I don’t remember where I saw that Luc Besson wrote detailed descriptions of all the alien species from this universe. We only saw some of them in this movie, most of them without going into more detail. I want more films with the development of this universe.
I thought about buying the comics to better explore this universe, but it would not be the same thing as the cinematic experience. I believe a skilled filmmaker, with the resources this movie had, could do a fantastic job, and resurrect the possible-franchise.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets should be the first of a franchise. The plot was underwhelming, but the rest had potential, so a sequel could be much better. For the potential and cinematography, I will give Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets 6 Moons.
That’s it for now. Don’t forget to be receptive to people as Alpha’s personnel.
Thanks, see you in the next review. Bye.