Right off the bat I know this movie is not new. Valerian came out in 2017 and stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. I however didn’t get around to watching it until very recently and felt that it was worthy of a review for one main reason. While there are a lot of space movies (Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien(s), etc), this film had a unique concept that I appreciated. While I won’t be giving away the ending or any major plot twists, this is the point where you should stop reading and watch the movie if you don’t want to know the general plot or certain specific occurrences in this movie. I think spoilers are the viewers fault after not seeing a show/movie for over 2 years after its release, but I’ll still give you that warning.
The concept of the film’s namesake, the City of a Thousand Planets, is an interesting concept that I don’t see anywhere else. The idea is that in its inception, two human countries joined space station for an international cooperative space station. This idea bloomed to other nations getting on board, until at some point aliens started to join up as well. The beginning of the film shows this in a fun way, with David Bowie’s “Space Odyssey” playing in the background as one by one alien civilizations come to the space station and add on to the already existing collaboration with a piece of their own heritage. Eventually you have a giant, planet-sized space station with thousands of difference races of beings represented. The scene really is fun to watch and sets the tone for the movie. Eventually of course there is an issue with figures of power going rogue and corrupt and young heroes needing to save the day to keep the peace and what have you. Those concepts are not new, but the space collaboration is so it provides a fresh look at an outer space film.
As with reviews sent before, I like to break down the good and the bad so you know exactly what you’re getting yourselves into if you partake in the film. Or, if you’ve already seen it, I will provide you with material to either agree with or disagree with. I welcome either perspective in the comments.
Casting: Many of the characters were solid in their rolls. Clive Owen plays a very convincing leader with secrets. He has an era of authority and has the exact amount of unlikeability that makes his character perfect. Rihanna and Ethan Hawk are great in their limited appearance. Rihanna as a shape-shifting alien and Hawk as an owner of a saloon/strip club type establishment.
Finally, Cara Delevingne, the co-star and female lead of the film, I think is quite good. Delevingne is a model-turned actress that I first took notice of for her performance in Paper Towns. While her performance isn’t perfect due to bad writing (I’ll get more into this later, don’t worry), she plays her role very well and has a good balance of military seriousness and sarcastic playfulness.
Unique plot points: I’ve already mentioned the idea behind the city of a thousand planets, so I won’t go into that a second time. However, there were a cople other cool instances that made this film unique and enjoyable. The first of which was a digital market. Essentially there is a giant marketplace somewhere in the galaxy that our main characters need to pull a heist in. However, from an outside perspective looking in at the location of the marketplace, it looks like just a giant desert. That’s because a headset is required in order to be able to see and interact in the marketplace, which is apparently on some undisclosed location.
That concept alone is pretty interesting, as we see both perspectives of the desert and the crowded marketplace streets back and forth. It becomes more interesting as our protagonists need to use certain technology in order to steal items from the actual marketplace and transfer it to their real-time location. Of course nothing is as easy as it’s supposed to be and the difficulties only further accent the unique concept of the digital marketplace.
The aliens themselves that we encounter were also unique. Some I feel of course were created for humor. Think slimy handshakes and human-eating ugly monsters. However, the the aliens that followed the central plot had a very cool backstory and appearance. It gave me a somewhat feeling of awe every time I saw them on screen. I won’t say much more as to not give away too much but they were definitely cool.
Visual effects: As is the case in most space movies, the visual effects were often stunning. The city of a thousand planets is pretty incredible, especially during a point in the movie where they describe/show how it is divided into segments based on its inhabitants.
Additionally special effects surrounding vehicles and technology are always prevalent in space films, and Valerian is no exception. High speed ships of different alien races showing differences in technology are what catch my eye, often showing one as vastly superior to the other.
Unfortunately everything can’t be good in a film, so I have the responsibility of sharing the not-so-great aspects of Valerian: City of a Thousand Planets as well.
Casting: There was one casting choice that missed the mark completely in this movie, and that is of the main character Valerian, played by Dane DeHaan. I usually like him, and am really not sure wtf happened here. I think that perhaps the persona of a cocky hero is just not quite a role he can excel at. Not everything can be blamed on him though, as the writing played a huge role in his character actions and choices.
Writing/Dialogue: Again, I can’t blame Dane completely because the writing was just terrible in terms of the movie’s dialogue, as well as the interaction/relationship between the main characters Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne). The two have no chemistry whatsoever, and I truly believe it is because the writers attempt to force a love story that makes no sense at all. I won’t dive too far into it as I want a fresh viewer to form their own opinion, but I will reveal that within the first 5 minutes Valerian asks Laureline to marry him. Not only does this action make no sense, as it is pretty obvious these two have never been involved romantically, but it constantly comes up throughout the entire film. I keep wanting to get invested in the mission or the tasks at hand but they keep shoving the love story down my throat. Laureline is so against it for most of the time but the fact that she doesn’t just shut it down completely and ask to be transferred to another commander is baffling.
Other times in the film the writers are obviously trying to add humor that just doesn’t land at all and often results in people acting out of characters. There’s a scene where Laureline is talking to an alien that doesn’t speak English. Neither can understand each other and Laureline ends up literally screaming at her at the top of her lungs, which is an injustice to her character.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie. That should be taken with a giant grain of salt though because, as my friends often remind me, I like terrible movies, particularly when it comes to Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. Yes Valerian has its flaws, but it is a fun space adventure that I don’t regret partaking in. Give it a watch yourself and let me know if you agree or disagree with my points. I welcome any arguments.