Since I’m not a professional movie reviewer (yet… Hopefully yet…), I was a little late in the game getting this review up on the blog so had already heard some mixed thoughts on the film. However, I went into it with an open mind and all in all, I enjoyed the film. But it had so much potential which it failed to latch on to.
Our adventure follows two space agents, Valerian and Laureline, played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, who are tasked with various missions, their latest being to uncover the mystery around a strange force in Alpha, a space station built of thousands of races and their ships, and save the station. Weirdly, the French comic this is based on was actually called Valerian and Laureline but they decided to drop her name from the title- really not sure why. That aside, there are various factions at work with Clive Owen, Rihanna (still popping up randomly in films) and Ethan Hawke play supporting roles but the story follows our leads primarily.
Let’s start with some positives about the film. Firstly, for the most part, it is absolutely gorgeous. The CGI is some of the best I have seen on the different aliens, spaceships and worlds. You will offer be found sitting on your seat in awe of the beauty that is before you on screen. It is very colourful, vibrant and bright. That reflects the tone of the movie too because it is a lot of fun. Strangely, the vibe I got from the film was more that of a good action movie with some bombastic action and interesting set-pieces.
Look beyond the EXTREMELY glossy exterior, however, and you will begin to see quite a few flaws with Valerian. Let’s start with the biggest and that is the script. Luc Besson wrote and directed it but I’m really not sure what he was thinking when he wrote the script. The ideas from the comic are great but the writing of the characters and the details of the plot are very poorly written. I did not buy into the relationship between Valerian and Laureline, not because their performances were notably poor, but because what came out of their mouths made little sense half the time. DeHaan is certainly miscast too- socially awkward stroppy guy plays James Bond style agent? No no. And in terms of the plot, I spent the majority of the film thinking, “What’s happening? Why…? What? Huh? What happened to…? HUH?!” Things just happen. And you have to just accept that. One final niggle that bothered me, considering the enormous budget (it’s the most expensive indie film ever) and the high quality of so much of the computer graphics, was how poor certain effects looked. Rihanna’s character in particular and a little creature of some significance were both lacking and Delevingne’s performance with the latter was a little ropey.
In the end, I did enjoy myself so I will be giving it a positive score and I do think, if you are into science fiction films in general, that this is worth a watch at the cinema. It will blow your eyes out with how stunning it is and you will have fun. Despite this, Besson must have been aiming for something much greater than a decent sci-fi action movie, which you really get the sense of watching it. It feels like he wanted a cool and thought provoking piece like his previous work, but he just swung and missed. I can’t ultimately score the film on what it isn’t by asserting what the director wanted though. Fun but lacking sci-fi flick. If you like that sort of thing… Get watching!