PG-13, for stuff. None of it is outright inappropriate. It is kind of what a teenager thinks is risque. Like, we're introduced to the characters who are making out in a kind of holodeck, I guess. There's a lot of really bad innuendo, but ultimately it doesn't account to much. It's all pretty harmless. There's sci-fi violence, but it's also uncanny valley violence. I'm going to keep comparing this to The Fifth Element. Everything in Valerian is a toned down version of The Fifth Element. And if you haven't seen The Fifth Element to compare this to? You should see that movie first. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Luc Besson
I've never read the Valérian and Laureline comic book. It's a little weird that Laureline doesn't get billing in the title considering that she's a huge part of the story. Really, I'm behind on my French comic books. As a kid, I was raised on Asterix and Obelix and The Adventures of Tintin. I've read the first volumes of Lucky Luke and Snowpiercer, but I've never really touched Valérian and Laureline. But I saw this trailer and got really excited that Luc Besson was going to tonally make a sequel to The Fifth Element. (It, in no way, is related to The Fifth Element, but it just looked like I was going to get the same feels as The Fifth Element.) I love The Fifth Element. I know, it is a flawed film that looks dated on every version of Blu-Ray I watch it on. But then the reviews of the movie kept preaching that this movie wasn't very good. It looked so pretty! How could it be bad? I mean, people didn't love The Fifth Element, so maybe it was just another case of that. Heck, the hipster part of me was glad for the bad reviews. That means I can be the sole worshiper at the temple of Luc Besson once more. Um...no. This one kind of sucks.
I should have known that it wasn't a good movie that wasn't going to turn around when it took me forever to get through the movie. After I built the new theater garage, my wife said she wanted to watch something that I hadn't seen before. Valerian was the new disc from Netflix, so we gave it a whirl. After all, I knew that this was going to be a very pretty movie and I should be watching it under ideal conditions. She was right. This was the ideal version to watch this movie. The best thing I can say about the movie is that it is absolutely gorgeous. Caveat: It is digitally gorgeous because the whole thing just lives in the uncanny valley, but that's unsurprising when you watch the trailer. Valerian is just an excuse for Luc Besson to make pretty things. If that is the goal that the director gave himself, mission completed. It is one of the prettier digital dreams I've seen for a while. Honestly, the movie looks absolutely phenomenal. A lot of that comes from the color schemes, but the other end of that is that everything is also marvelously detailed. There's a scene in the movie where Valerian is chasing a bad guy through the titular city. To make the action something interesting, Valerian bursts through walls rather than navigate the city through the city streets. This chase is epic and long. Considering that the chase goes through many of these "planets", Valerian's nontraditional way of chasing bad guys means that almost every second is littered with a completely different environment that is absolutely mindboggling. From a designer's and an art director's perspective, it's super duper fun. As much as I didn't like the movie as a whole, I will never say that I hate this movie because this kind of stuff is super nifty. It also all, oddly enough, all feels like Luc Besson. He's got this very specific aesthetic, especially when it comes to his sci-fi, that just screams him. So these worlds are all flying by with each world having its own rules and they all feel like they both belong in the movie and in a Luc Besson film. The hard part was completed, but the basic part of the movie was left kind of vapid.
The story is stupid. The story is criminally stupid. The movie establishes this very epic premise, but ignores the main storyline until the end. A world has been destroyed and Valerian receives this mental projection detailing the end of a civilization. That's amazing. He has to investigate what happened to these people and discover if there is anyone still alive? How super cool is that? Well, it would be awesome if everything Valerian did was somehow building to an investigation that led to the antagonist of the movie and his intentions behind his genocide. Nope. Most of the movie has only a tertiary relationship to the main quest. He's kind of investigating this crime, but most of his leads are dead-ends. Then he gets separated from Laureline and the movie really becomes hers. (Which is why I wonder why the movie was not named Valerian and Laureline: The City of a Thousand Planets. I bet a studio head, probably a dude, thought that the other name was catchier.) Most of the movie is just Valerian and Laureline making their way through the many odd cultures that live aboard this space station. I mean, about a third of the movie is devoted to Rihanna's Bubble (a character name, I swear!). She has nothing to do with the genocide, but is rather just a means to get out of a pickle that Valerian was in. This is a movie that lives or dies on plot. If that kind of premise was brought up, there needed to be some kind of tie to the main plot. I am now afraid to rewatch The Fifth Element just in case that story goes the same way. (I'm now going through it in my head and it may, in fact, be the same thing.) Clive Owen is the bad guy! But for the life of me, he doesn't seem very compelling because I have no real understanding of the character beyond the fact that he's just an intense general. That's really lame. The movie isn't short either. This movie is two hours and seventeen minutes! There's plenty of time to really build a solid story in this, but because much of the film was devoted to pretty images and worldbuilding, there's nothing else really to do.
And now an even bigger problem that makes me question my entire reality. This movie is extremely miscast. Like, I can't believe how poorly the casting job is in the movie. Okay, I thought I liked Dane DeHaan. I'm one of the few people who actually really enjoys The Amazing Spider-Man movies. I really liked his interpretation of Harry Osborn. I like James Franco, but I thought that Dane DeHaan crushed him. But Dane DeHaan apparently has one setting: grumbly. One thing that the movie really communicated about the comic book character is that he's a womanizer. This is a gross generalization about French comics, so please understand that I'm not an authority on this, but many of the characters seem to be very one-dimensional. If you had Han Solo turned up to 11 and wanted to keep him there without any real growth, you'd have Valerian. This is what I can glean from the script, but Dane DeHaan is not that. He's not devilishly handsome. Oddly enough, he has a little boy's haircut. I looked at the images of Valérian and he is not that character. Where's the pompadour? Also, that thing that Buzz Lightyear is commenting on? He's supposed to be that. But Dane DeHaan is reading these charming lines as just moody and withdrawn. He also kind of looks sickly throughout. I hate to be so superficial about how someone looks in a movie, but it really stands out to me. Cara Delevingne as Laureline is slightly more charming. I get the vibe that Luc Besson doesn't really get women. He always has a cool female character, but they are all emotionally stunted and weird in his movies. Laureline, in this, is all over the board with her intentions. She has last generation's attitude of smitten girl with a superficial tough warrior attitude. Imagine Wonder Woman if, in private, she got all wobbly in the knees. There is a way to have Laureline be this amazing warrior woman and have her love Valerian, but it is not this. Both of these parts of her personality actually seem like masks, making the film even more bizarre. I don't know. I just didn't seem to care about either character. I already mentioned that Clive Owen isn't developed. I kind of feel like he's doing this part as a favor. Then there's a really weird Ethan Hawke cameo. I don't know why Ethan Hawke is in this movie either. That part is fundamentally unimportant, yet Ethan Hawke is there. Could he only film one day and really wanted to do it? I hate to say, and I know that my wife would disagree with me, but Rihanna's Bubble is the most interesting character and she really doesn't need to be in the movie.
The movie is very pretty to look at. If I was having a party where people were drinking luminescent cocktails and wearing glow sticks, I might have this playing on my screens in the background as lasers lit up the dance floor. But as an actual movie, it is pretty terrible. I was bored stupid, despite the fact that a thousand planets were on display ahead of me. I've never seen such a lopsided movie before and I don't know why that wasn't addressed earlier. I guess I can still like The Fifth Element...unless I never noticed these problems in that movie before. Gah! Look what you did, movie! Look what you did!
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.