Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne. Clive Owen
Genre: Action / Sci-fi
In the 28th Century, special agents Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) are sent to Alpha, a giant space station that is home to a thousand planets and species from across the universe that share knowledge and culture, to embark on a dangerous mission to identify a mysterious threat to the city. With the future and safety of the universe in jeopardy, they now face a race against time to identify this mysterious threat.
Whether it be as director or producer, Luc Besson has given us some wonderfully entertaining films, and also some infuriatingly horrific films like his last directorial effort Lucy (Which is still one of the very worst films I have ever seen at the cinema). Well, I am of course a little late to the party when it comes to seeing his latest directorial effort; a film I missed out at seeing at the cinema due to the gross incompetence of my local railway franchise (long story), I have had to wait for it to become available on Netflix to see it, and even then I am still a little late to see it, however, for what it is worth here is my two pence worth.
Valerian is a wonderfully bonkers and visually energetic experience, and though its overall plot is actually quite simple, this is forgivable, but it is a film woefully let down by narrative ill-discipline, clunky screenwriting and some bad casting decisions.
In terms of visual spectacle, Valerian delivers; it is a wonderfully colourful treat for the eyes and certainly places the viewer in this unlimitedly expansive world and not only are the action set pieces stunning, but Besson makes sure to focus on the more minute and intimate details of the film’s setting in every scene, so that he creates a truly immersive viewing experience.
For all its visual splendour, there is also an inescapable feeling of self-indulgence throughout the narrative, as is not only Besson’s script littered with a tendency to patronisingly over-explain the plot and its various twists, with something blatantly obvious revealed, yet a character still feels the need to then explain it everyone, which cannot help but then take anyone with half a brain that figured it out ages ago feeling alienated from the already bloated plot and shouting at the screen “get on with it”. Valerian does indeed have a script that makes James Cameron’s lowest common-denominator script of Avatar feel like the cryptic clues of The Sunday Times crossword.
Not only does the script treat the audience like total idiots but it also shows a deep lack of narrative discipline; with some scenes that go on for far too long while others that seem to have no point whatsoever other than Besson showing us yet another different CGI creation. At just under 140 minutes Valerian is way too long and if at least 30 minutes of it were left on the cutting room floor it would have been a far slicker and more enjoyable film.
However, what truly lets Valerian down is its casting; for a film like this to rise above mediocrity we need characters to care about and believe in, and it doesn’t help that the two main characters of Valerian and Laureline are given some dreadful, cringe-inducing dialogue to say, but they are hideously miscast. Dane DeHaan has proven before to be a good screen presence when it comes to intense, slightly misunderstood characters, but is not right for the role of Valerian, who is supposed to be cocky, plucky Hans Solo-esque character. He also shares absolutely no chemistry with Cara Delevingne, and so not only is their professional relationship, but also their budding romantic relationship, completely unconvincing. Delevingue herself is dreadful; her body language and line delivery are consistently wrong and her character impossible to care about.
So, if we cannot care about the two main characters, why should we care at all? Well, it is impossible to care, and so though Valerian may be just about entertaining enough in terms of being a watchable, visual spectacle, thanks to its patronising script and miscasting it will not linger long in the memory at all
Visually stunning, but slightly overlong, poorly written and featuring two woefully miscast leads; Valerian is just about passable as entertainment but is totally vacuous (and admittedly very colourful) nonsense.