While the idiocies this movie presents are plentiful, most don’t arrive until much later into the game. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I found myself enjoying this movie for the twenty or so minutes that was able to last. We open in space, David Bowie’s ‘Starman’ eloquently and fittingly played over the top of a plot-establishing montage. What will go on to be called Alpha is in the midst of creation. It’s a space station above Earth, slowly gaining colonists from all over the galaxy, until it reaches the point where housing it above Earth proves detrimental to the planet’s people. So, it moves. It travels to the far reaches of space, and here it stays, serving as a port and point of origin for all extraterrestrial life.
The story is grand and epic, fitting for a film of such scale. Being based on a long-running French comic allows for plenty of creative freedom and inspiration, and writer-director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Lucy) makes the most of it. He takes his famous, or infamous depending on whom you ask, approach to sci-fi and creates a vibrant, colourful world full of eccentric characters and the most creative of aliens. It’s a world well lived in and constantly evolving. He attempts to bring realism into the mix, setting the stage with an Earth-based 60s opening (for all of thirty seconds) and transitioning through the development of our intergalactic expansion. It starts with a scene that feels like an ending, before cutting forward to the actual story at hand.
So many moments are fun and exciting in their own right. There are plenty of little missions throughout, where characters find themselves in dangerous scenarios, but it makes the film feel more episodic than the comic series it’s based upon. Plots come and go. Characters make brief appearances. Then, as if no time’s passed at all, we return back to the main plot at hand, completely ignoring the last 30 minutes that took place. The entire middle hour of this movie could be removed and we’d still reach the exact same conclusion, but at a mercifully shorter runtime than Valerian’s bloated 137 minute one. It did allow for a cowboy hat wearing, strip club owning Ethan Hawke cameo though, so without that middle hour, those moments wouldn’t have blessed my eyes.
Visually speaking, however, and the same goes for all of Besson’s filmography, Valerian is a masterpiece. The occasional visual effect can look a little goofy from time to time, but this is a very CGI-heavy movie. All the characters and worlds put in the main focus look absolutely divine. Then there’s Rihanna’s character, and holy crap, whenever she reverts back to her alien form, I couldn’t believe that what I was watching was real. Not only is her performance stale, but also the characters effects were abominable. Even when in her human form, she’s at one point given blonde hair (she’s a shape shifting alien, in case you were interested) and it’s one of the worst looking wigs to ever haunt the silver screen. You’re meant to care for her character, especially in a more heartfelt moment towards the end, but it’s impossible.
While Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is, for the most part, a critical and commercial failure, it’s still managed to find an audience. If it goes down as a cult classic amongst its fans, I wouldn’t be surprised (it does feel like a Fifth Element remake structurally so they could both go down the same path). Sadly, it wasn’t for me. I’m envious of those who enjoyed this, and wish I enjoyed the rest of it as much as I enjoyed a ridiculously over the top Ethan Hawke.
You May Also Like: