This weekend I went to see Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets. I saw it was the most expensive indie movie ever made, and that Luc Besson was involved, of Fifth Element fame – which might actually be the greatest science fiction movie of all time. So I figured, why not? I got a little worried when I was told there was a message in the movie, as message fiction bothers me for the most part. This didn’t have anything to do with current political climates, so it’s safe on that front. Let’s dive into the rest of the film.
Valerian both suffers and does excellently from the modern-film having to have so much action it hurts and overuse of CGI. I say done excellently, because while most action of this sort throws me out of the film after a few minutes (Star Trek: Into Darkness and Spock fist fighting on top of a crashing space ship is a great example of how it’s used poorly), I never was thrown out of the action in this at all. It was clever, well done, and actually showed us action that other films haven’t from a creativity standpoint. The visuals were beautiful to look at. And there CGI was everywhere. Way too many visuals with a lot of density, as is the trend. I couldn’t help but want to compare a little bit to Avatar with the blue aliens who were integral to the plot, which is bad in that it reminded me of a bad movie, but everything Avatar almost did, this did strictly better. Pacing wise, it was pretty break-neck, and I think with the amount of action I did start to suffer a little fatigue. It should have maybe been 10 minutes shorter for a tighter film.
A lot of people complained about the casting, that these actors didn’t have enough gravitas to hold a film of this weight. Luc Besson reminds me of a younger Keanu Reeves, an actor I’m not particularly fond of, though mentally, he does prepare me for an action flick like this as Keanu does these kind of movies. I can’t say his acting ever threw me out of the film. Cara Delvinge played the female lead, Laureline, and she is mostly known for modeling and background work, not for her lead roles. I won’t lie, I was perfectly content to stare at her for two hours. I thought she did a great job actually, but even if she didn’t, I wouldn’t have cared. Where the casting broke down were the tertiary roles. Some of the lines delivered were pretty bad and wooden from those characters who came in to drop information periodically. Rihanna was tough on the dialogue end, but obviously her dancing was pretty crazy to watch.
Plot wise, I really enjoyed it. A good mystery build, investigations, lots of zany twists and turns like you’d expect from the guy who did the Fifth Element, unique use of strange alien species. There were points where things went a little implausible, but the movie and plot didn’t take itself too seriously. It was very clear on that from the get go. The dialogue had a lot of humor in it, which was fun. I enjoyed it, cared about the main characters. The subplot of the romance felt reeeeeeeally forced though, I gotta say. Some of it was cute, but most of it was over the top and poorly done. I liked it when it was some jabbing, but as it got later into the movie it broke down a bit. Not that I mind how it resolved, but something about it just didn’t work. It didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the film much if at all, however.
On the message: it was there a little. Anti-war, don’t use crazy destructive weapons of overwhelming force in war because there’s consequences and innocents get hurt. Love and acceptance is a better way to do things. The blue people were somewhat annoyingly painted as saints, noble savages, like all films do these days, but it wasn’t so obnoxious like Avatar where it was all message with cigar chomping general. Elements were the same, but it wasn’t poorly done, and frankly I can’t say I disagree with that message. No problems on that front.
The amount of fun action and beautiful imagery throughout the movie were about perfect even though I picked out some of the minor problems that, due to how many there are, did hurt the film a little bit. That said, I’d actually watch this one again, and there’s no many movies in recent years I’d do that with. I can’t give in an A, but I rate it a solid B, 8/10.