Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets (2017) Review

Updated on December 24, 2017
Ross Tanenbaum profile image

Ross is a student at the University of Maryland. He is planning on majoring in Film Studies and English.

A Visually Impressive Film With Very Little Substance Inolved

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CGI has improved so much over the past couple of years. Films can transport viewers to completely different worlds simply by using computers. However, as CGI has improved, filmmakers have occasionally been more focused on providing great effects, then providing a good story with good characters. This is certainly the case for this sci-fi adventure.

Plot

After many years of space travel, species from different planets begin to form a unified space station. The space station then becomes so large that it becomes it's own city where many different species live in peace. Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan play two agents who protect Valerian. They are assigned to protect Commander Filitt (Clive Owen), when all of a sudden, he is kidnapped by a primitive species whose planet had been previously wiped out. The two agents are now on a mission to get the commander back, however, there is something bigger going on here.

Characters

A good sci-fi film needs good characters that the audience can become invested in and this film does not have that. Delevingne and DeHaan are both fine in the movie, but they are both pretty miscast. DeHaan is supposed to be an egotistical, charismatic guy but he does a bad job at conveying it. He just doesn't have a lot of chemistry. They have awful chemistry with one another. There is supposed to be a romantic relationship between them, but most of the development for the relationship comes out of nowhere and the initial romance between them is so poorly developed throughout the film.

They are also both horribly written characters. The dialogue between them is laughably cheesy and very predictable. I could honestly guess what each character was about to say before they said it.

Owen is also fine in this movie, but he doesn't do anything new in this movie. He plays your average military character who doesn't show any uniqueness from other military characters.

What I did like though is the other species from the other planets. The CGI on them is great and each species has a very distinct appearance. They all looked very interesting and I enjoyed seeing how creative the designs of the aliens could get.

Narrative

The narrative within this film is also just very bland. I never felt that invested into the plot because it just wasn't very interesting. One disappointing factor was how limited the narrative felt. The film is called Valerian and the City of A THOUSAND Planets. The narrative only focuses on one planet. There a thousand planets that they could've used, and they only used one. They definitely did not take full advantage of this premise.

The narrative also isn't completely fluid. There is an entire 30 minute sequence that has nothing to do with the main plot. The only thing it does is develop the relationship between DeHaan and Delevingne, which is not very interesting. This sequence was way too long and feels very forced into the film.

Direction

I think Luc Besson did a pretty good job at directing the film. He also directed The Fifth Element (1997) so he definitely knows how to make a visually interesting film. The effects are really good, and for the most part, it is difficult to point out bad CGI. Most of it is done really well. All of the worlds and species have their own distinct images and show that a lot of imagination went into designing the other worlds.

I also think he did a good job at filming the action scenes. They have a lot of energy. There are some cool stunts and original things that have not been seen in other sci-fi action movies. The action is very fast paced and feature a lot of cool images.

Final Thoughts

Valerian is a very hit or miss movie. Every time a cool action scene or visual got me back into the movie, some dumb dialogue between the two main characters would immediately take me back out. The film also could have been a lot more explorative considering that there are a ton of planets mentioned in this movie. If you enjoy seeing cool sci-fi visuals or interesting aliens, then you might have fun with this movie. However, if you are looking for a film with a compelling narrative and interesting characters, then you might be better off just watching Star Was again.

Rating: 6/10

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