Normally I try not to double up on reviews for So Wizard. In this case I had to make an exception. Valerian is by far one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I would feel like I’m betraying the So Wizard audience if I didn’t do my best to warn them off.
Now is about the time to get into the plot. I don’t really see the point in this case but I’ll give it a shot. To give a very little bit of credit I will say Valerian actually has a plot. It just spends more time on detours and detracting from it than sticking to it. It’s also horrible. The movie doesn’t actually start until thirty or forty minutes, that feel like thirty to forty hours, into the run time. By this time you’ll have gone to the bathroom twice, concession stand once, and checked your phone 5 or 6 times. Instead of a story or character development you’ll have been given way too much information that adds nothing to the movie. Even better, the heavy data dump the movie drops in your lap is repeated in some cases.
The city of a thousand planets is the international space station hundreds of years in the future with, you guessed it, a thousand planets contributing. You will learn this by a painfully long and unnecessary introduction. In the middle of the massive city there is an unknown element that is seen as a threat. A couple agents, Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne), are tasked with figuring out the threat and neutralizing it before it can destroy everything. Even this plot point isn’t exactly accurate and not for a second feels the least bit urgent. To the audience or anyone involved inside the movie.
The agents are basically millennials given rank for no good reason. At no point in the movie do they prove to be anything other than a couple kids out of their depth. Their skills are inconsistent depending on what the scene needs. Scene, not story. Valerian is a bunch of disjointed scenes shot on the same theme and stuck together without much care.
The love story (if you can call it that) between Valerian and Laureline is another element someone decided should exist without any care for how or why. It’s brought up early and doesn’t develop over the movie just… happens. This isn’t even a spoiler for a couple reasons. First off, it’s glaringly obvious right off the bat. Second, no one should ever sit through this to be worried about anything being spoiled. You can’t spoil a disaster.
The entire movie feels like a thirteen year old won a screenwriting contest. The studio picked the winner and threw a bunch of money into special effects that aren’t anything astounding in today’s world. When they played the disaster to test audiences they realized they forgot movies are supposed to have a continuing story so they dubbed in a bunch of lines without making them fit organically. This way the exposition could be shoved down your throat and you would have to accept the fact that a story actually existed.
The one thing I have been consistently seeing about Valerian is praise for the visuals. They aren’t bad. At all. But with what Hollywood can do in today’s day and age they are substandard. Maybe that’s unfair to set the bar high but that’s where we are. The alien race with the most screen time and the most exposure doesn’t move naturally. They look and move like the Kaminoan’s in 2002’s Attack of the Clones. A fifteen year old “special” effect isn’t exactly the modern bar in Hollywood. Sure there was a lot of color and everything seemed to be reflective, flesh included, but that doesn’t make the effects good, nor does it make for a good movie.
For a big sci-fi epic, at least that’s what Besson was going for, the sound editing was also total trash. Everything muddled together and sound separation was put aside for loud. Some of this could be chalked up to the theater but watching Valerian and Dunkirk in less than 24 hours in the same theater says otherwise.
Luc Besson is a name all movie fans should know. Not everything he makes is wonderful but in most cases he at least tries something. As successful as he is in the States he has just as many, if not more, European hits. That being said Valerian is an unforgivable blight on the aging director’s resume. Touted as a passion project of his for years Valerian was supposed to be something great. If it was odd and failed, or couldn’t find it’s audience that would be one thing. Sadly the final product is delivered with such lack of care it’s unbelievable he wanted to make it at all.
Rumor is that The 5th Element was the result of Besson trying to make Valerian years ago. That brilliant movie, as a side effect, is what Besson is known for and should be making. Valerian is an unwatchable disappointment from a director that once showed greatness.