Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Review
The cinema experience is much the same for most people. You arrive 10/20 minutes before your showing; you buy a coffee, some snacks, have a pre-film pee… Then watch half an hour of adverts and lack lustre trailers for the next ‘blockbusters.’
I checked all these boxes and got sat in my seat for Valerian. Now this film had had terrible reviews - i was aware of these and the apprehension that comes with knowing a young model turned actress is in a title role. However, i was also aware that my cinema partner for the evening was more than hyped for this ‘space thriller,’ so i threw any misconceptions away.
The film begins with an inevitable time lapse of how Earth and the human race suddenly become space competent, so that the actual plot can begin and the less literate of the audience aren’t confused for too long. It wasn’t bad, but i also found it a tad unnecessary - many a film starts in a fantasy time or place with no preface; and this montage just added 7 minutes to an already too-long film.
Then, we get introduced to a new planet and species of alien, planting the seed for a small payoff that happens literally in the last 15 minutes of the film.
Finally, we meet Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne; human partners who solve space missions and have an oh-so cliche relationship. Right from the get-go, Valerian (DeHaan) as the ‘badboy of space,’ attempts to woo Laureline (Delevingne), a stoic and highly intelligent good girl. What follows is a series of misadventures as they receive and pursue their mission.
On the way, we’re greeted with all manner of weird creatures, some actually cool technology (always one of the best bits of a sci-fi flick) and some gorgeous CGI scenery. Unfortunately, the writers decided to give Dane and Cara’s characters a lot of dialogue and what should have been, witty banter. Most of the intended jokes fell flat in my screening, with only one or two muffled sniggers punctuating the air, if at all.
Taking a step back and looking at the project as whole, I can definitely see it working with a casting swap. Dane DeHaan as eponymous ‘Valerian’ delivers quiet, shaky lines. He comes across more like Paul Finch from American Pie - a nerdy, whiney character rather than an irresistible ‘bad boy,’ with an incredible mission success rate and reputation for womanising.
On the whole, Cara’s acting wasn’t terrible; which you would assume given a number of times Wardrobe was tasked with drawing your attention to her body. But she had little to no chemistry with Dane which made their whole arc unbelievable and frankly, not something to root for.
I wish I could say that the plot and special effects redeemed this film, but sadly I would be lying. Perhaps the only consolation is the somewhat surprising acting from Rihanna, who’s gimmicky cameo as ‘Bubble,’ i felt sure would fall short. However, her character’s tragic backstory is well conveyed through emotion and expression by the singer, and Bubble’s initial ’performance’ is perfectly seductive.
Overall, I found myself searching for my own entertainment during this ‘epic,’ watching my fellow cinephiles and consuming masses of salty popcorn and Tango slush.
Don’t waste your time! Wait for the DVD if you must, but don’t pay the extortionate ticket prices for effects that are overdone and underwhelming.