As the newest sci-fi flick to hit the big screens, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” can best be described as that of a bad high school jock stereotype — pretty to look at, but lacking any substance. While the film had gorgeous effects, it was lacking in character development and script writing.
The film takes place in a futuristic outer space where an infinite number of planets are at peace with one another. The participating races have joined hands and created an extensive ‘planet’ in which they share their vast amounts of knowledge.
The story begins with the destruction of an entire planet and civilization, followed by a cover-up of the events. Although equally interesting and important to the storyline, the sequence pretty much gives away the plot in its entirety, leaving no surprises or plot twists to discover later. It also lasted what felt like 20 minutes before introducing the main characters, agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), who together form a special-ops team that works for the government. As if to catch up with the time spent on the introduction, Valerian and Laureline’s background is glossed over and left virtually untouched, leaving it up to the imagination as to how they ended up in their roles.
As far as character development, all you really get from Valerian is that he’s good at his job and he knows it, causing him to act recklessly. He is constantly trying to court Laureline and overly confident in his ability to swoon her, coming off as egotistical.
Following the portrayal of Laureline, it seemed the film would focus on her strong feminist role and fearless attitude as she consistently rejects Valerian’s passes and dives headfirst into every situation without hesitation. Unfortunately for all cinematic feminist icons and heroines, her character follows the typical route female sidekicks tend to pursue and ends up falling for her partner, revealing her vulnerability to his lady-killer tendencies.
Despite finding themselves in sticky situations, I never once feared for the characters’ safety, as they always had some sort of gadget made specifically for that situation to save the day, making it difficult to care or emotionally connect to the characters themselves. Valerian was especially difficult to feel for due to his arrogant attitude and annoying Keanu Reeves tone of voice, sounding like a matter-of-fact surfer dude.
While any viewer would usually root for the romance in the film, this is one instance where I wouldn’t. The on-set chemistry between the two leads was so off for the majority of the film that I was convinced Laureline loathed Valerian and Valerian was an arrogant child with a big ego. The dialogue between the two made me cringe, and at times felt rushed and unnecessary.
Despite the ever-growing list of problems with the film, it excelled in its special effects and scenery. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” was a truly gorgeous film to look at, with lavish celestial colors and creatures. The differences in the variety of races and creatures were drastic but definitely eye-catching. One thing I noticed especially was that even the gross or ugly creatures were somehow appealing or spectacular in their own peculiar way, causing me to become attached to them.
After watching this movie, I probably would not watch it again. If more time was spent on the actual story and plot as opposed to all of the effects, the film could have been much better, instead of falling short of what the film could have been.