Trying to capture that lighting in a bottle found in “The Fifith Element,” Luc Besson gets a lot right, but a lot wrong in his latest sci-fi film based on a French comic series.
Titutlar character Valerian and his partner Laureline must traverse Alpha—the city of a thousand planets—in order to stop an enemy that may threaten the inhabitants.
So much promise for the film came in the beginning sequence that really set the scene and world for a film that just feels right.
Normally, sci-fi films like this used giant walls of text, or just thrusting the audience into the action to justify the future setting. This film took a more unconventional approach, and it made it really stand out.
Nothing like a bit of more showing than telling to get the message across, and it really does feel helpful in explaining how hundreds of alien species and cultures are able to coexist in a way that makes sense.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film is a mixed bag that falls flat in both character development and plot.
Dane Dehaan as Valerian and Cara Delevingne as Laureline are either insufferable together or really inconsistent in their roles.
Dehaan did more exposition about being a bad boy, but out of nowhere they expected to let the audience know he plays by the rules as if we weren’t paying attention to the film.
Meanwhile Delevingne does her best pouty lip and snarky smarty pants routine that really felt like there was no effort put to it.
Their chemistry in general can feel just so genuine when they weren’t together, and the whole back and forth romantic comedy just did not bode well considering how everything turns out.
Much of the plot just felt like it could have been more than the sum of its parts. There were CGI aliens that were more detailed than the story given.
Everyone is after the thing and war is bad. Really? There are hundreds of species from around the universe and this one race of aliens are just misunderstood and not a threat? Where’s the conflict? What happened to the stakes?
Everything just felt rushed, and when it wasn’t, it just felt like missed opportunities for character growth, and maybe less recycled plot devices.
Of all the screeching halts in film, none is as tragic as giving Rihanna an interesting character that literally leaves a record-setting ten minutes in the story, never to be mentioned again.
Looking at what was exactly done right came from how Besson is able to juggle a few memorable characters and coordinate action in a way that is brutal, fun and thrilling.
Visually, this film rivaled the likes of “Avatar” and “Prometheus” with incredible CGI, practical effects and costume design that oozed with creativity and gave a great sense of a thriving environment.
Some ideas just felt executed in a way that most filmgoers have yet to see in big budget Hollywood films today.
One example came from a shootout in a piece of empty land that is only visible through glasses that show an interdimensional marketplace where tourists are able to safely buy goods.
Every little piece of gadgetry and technology was sleek and stylish, yet if only the stakes and story were as detailed and epic as the aesthetics.
Like “Fifth Element” much of the humanization or appeal came from the quirky humor, which was either lame or funny. Too bad that much of it was lame, as it would have helped bring some more understanding of our heroes.
There will definitely be debate on the shortcomings and greatness of the film, but it really is worth a watch, especially on the things it tried to do right.
If one does not expect anything less than a predictable story, “Valerian” will award with great visuals, action and some wonderment of what could have been.
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