The Cambridge Geek

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

I had high hopes for this. I should not have done. I'm about to complain a lot about this film, so spoilers will abound. Also, here are a few good things before I get going properly.

The design of pretty much everything was great. The aliens were nicely distinct and the world tended to be fairly beautiful. If you turned this into a telly series, it would easily rival something like Farscape for coolness of characters. This extends to Rihanna's transformation scene. That was done rather well. And the evil robots were really cool. The opening scene was cute, with the run through of the history of Earth's building of the space station and the slow progression through the alien encounters. I really enjoyed the brain eating hat.

Now the bad.

Everything else.

This film is essentially a James Bond film set in space. We have our action hero, the girl he fancies a bit who then dies, allowing him to get together with the other Bond girl and then after a bit of a kerfuffle, they end up having sex in a life boat. It should have been wonderfully stylish, and fun, but it just fails horribly at more or less every step.

The leads are annoying. They might be good in something else, they were not good in this. DeHaan is a little boy playing at being a space agent, so he's constantly trying too hard and it shows. The overall arc of him learning to be more emotionally mature might have worked with someone else. It did not work here. Delevingne is wooden. The villain is cartoonish.

And so many things are wrong with the plot elements. The first half of the film shoots past at breakneck speed, not giving time for the major moments to hit you or be absorbed. The initial market scene is just confusing. I've tried about four times to work out how the combination of VR and dimension hopping is supposed to hang together, and it doesn't seem to quite make sense. You need to accept that the science is magic in this film. (That goes double for the plot rat, who breaks all of the laws of physics, literally for breakfast.)

Then the second half takes too long to do anything, overdoes all of its emotional moments, and feels the need to explain the plot back to you again, either through flashbacks of previous plot you've seen before, or flashbacks of the villain just being more evil. Was this meant to be a twist? The most annoying bit that ran on too long was the "Rihanna shows off" bit, in the strip club. We honestly didn't need that much of it. And her death was painfully drawn out, and not in a good way.

Just realised another parallel. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was another film that was essentilly built on style, not being a film so much as a series of cool "moments" strung together. You could go "oh, that was neat" throughout all of it. But that was executed well, such that it worked. This film is trying for that, but less than half of its "moments" hit the mark. The power suited running through walls. The alien ship that splits up into hundreds of smaller ones. The overly enthusiastic dresser. The rest fell flat. I can't honestly tell you to go watch this.

Not recommended.

Tagged: Film Science fiction Spacesuits and rayguns Fiction Cinema