Ye Gods in heaven and other imaginary realms, I wanted to love this movie so much. Since I first saw the trailer for it way back when and, when I realized it was by Luc Besson who gave us the awesome The 5th Element, I was sure this was going to be another classic and I’ve been waiting with baited and slightly garlicy breath for months for this movie to be released so that I could enjoy it as God intended. Now that I’ve see it?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a horrible movie. It’s beautiful to look at, it has an abundance of imagination and whimsy, and the action sequences are inventive and exciting, but when it comes to story and everything else, it seems like nothing works for this poor film.
Okay, okay… the story. It’s dull and, frankly, it’s predictable once you realize what story the movie is telling. It’s a story about conspiracy and genocide, but the problem is that the story about conspiracy and genocide is glaringly obvious from the first thirty minutes, you know exactly who’s covering it up, you’re pretty sure you know what the bad guys are doing, and it’s all tied up with a neat little bow at the end where there shouldn’t have been an easy and happy conclusion in the first place! It’s geocide, darn it, not the neighbors dog crapping on your front lawn!
Secondly, can we talk about Dane Dehaan? Don’t get me wrong… I like Dane Dehaan. I made mention of how much I liked Dane when I first reviewed Chronicle years ago, but in this movie he’s supposed to be playing this awesome sci-fi operative and… it doesn’t work. I didn’t buy Dehaan in the role of Valerian for a single second. It’s no failing of his, he did his best… it’s the failing of the director or whoever decided to put him in this role. It was wrong for him. It doesn’t fit him. He’s the main character and he constantly looks like a teenager pretending to be a sci-fi cop.
He has no chemistry with with his co-star, Cara Delevingne, either. What is supposed to look like this love story looks more like two annoying teenagers flirting, or at least one of them committing egregious acts of sexual harassment.
I haven’t even mentioned this duo’s complete disregard for property damage and lives. In the first thirty minutes alone, the two of them escape from a space monster while it devours and mauls the rest of their team. They don’t try to help them, they don’t really lend a hand or even attempt to save one of them… nope, they just run like a could of cowardly prigs and that’s how I saw them for the rest of the movie as they busted through walls without a thought of who they were hurting or what they were breaching and as they shot weapons and missiles inside a space station filled with tens of thousands of people.
Even this so-called original movie that was supposed to save us from the dregs of sequels and remakes lifts whatever it can from Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Steven Universe, and any other thing it can find. Sure, it looks cool and is occasionally cool, but this movie is just… meh. Nothing else seems to work in its favor. Valarian and the City of a Thousand Planets is an exercise in amazing world-building and then populates that world with nothing new.
It’s not remarkable and it’s not terrible, it’s in that nondescript gray area inbetween which, to me, is worse than being bad. Almost twenty years after it was pooped into theaters, people still talk about how bad Batman and Robin was or how bad Lost in Space was, but at least they’re remembered. In twenty years, no one will remember Valerian short of an occasional airing on FXX or SyFy… it will be resigned to the obscurity of the forgotten which is a terrible fate for what should have been art.