Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets review

Rated 3/5

Eh, this movie is just ok. It’s entertaining enough and all, it looks great, but it’s not something all that memorable to me. But it does make me interested in checking out the comic series Valerian and Laureline (started all the way back in 1967, and ended in 2010).

Oh Lucas, you and your ripoffs.

I haven’t read the comics, I don’t know exactly how the plot in those go. But I believe it would’ve been better if this film had an entirely different plot that didn’t go along the lines of, “We’re all gonna die unless you save us!” I mean, the first 5 minutes seem worthy of being a stand-alone film on its own, showing how humanity has slowly but surely begun construction of an international space station (making sure to highlight the Chinese people because this is a Chinese produced film so it can get a bigger release in China). And eventually we make contact with an alien species who wish to join us in our peaceful space settlement. And it continually grows larger and larger in size until it has to move out into the universe away from Earth so that the station’s gravitational pull doesn’t start to negatively affect Earth (holy shit, there’s some realistic physics in this). Granted, all the aliens pretty much walk on 2 legs and have 2 arms, so it’s not THAT creative or imaginative in that regard, but I’ll take it. I wanted to see more details in this. I wanted to see more of what life is like living on this place, seeing what the alien cultures/technology is like, how coexisting works, etc. Couldn’t we get a movie that is just like that? Without some action/adventure plot? Something that’s less on the conventional side? Apparently not.

But anyway, speaking of convention, this film basically turns into another version of the same damn thing we’ve seen before in just about every film about Native Americans since the 80s. There’s a group of peaceful natives on a planet where everyone is happy and content and at peace and there is absolutely nothing wrong going on (gag me with a spoon, no fucking culture is that peaceful!). Until the evil human/American race shows up and blows the shit out of everything! So now our main protagonists have to make it right somehow someway. Despite all the potential with looking into the thousands of alien lifeforms and cultures and such, that ends up being the plot. Such a waste. It would’ve been more meaningful if the colony was expanding, and questions start to get raised about whether or not they should make contact with a race, if the entire colony is starting to get so big there isn’t enough power to run the entire station and so the possibility of resorting to gaining power through raiding a planet of its resources arises, and all the political/ethical debates that arise between all the species on the station regarding this issue. That would make for a much more intriguing film. But nope, typical action/adventure fluff. Puts me off when something like this settles for “adequate” when it had the potential for so much more.

Another thing I disliked about this film is that it goes that Star Wars Attack of the Clones route. By that I mean it delves into chase scenes that go on for too long and don’t serve much of a purpose other than “It’s supposed to look cool.” Attack of the Clones is probably the main film that suffers the worst from this sort of element, of dragging on a chase/action scene for far too long, and there’s at least 2 sequences where this film suffers from the same element. But there’s that, and then there’s the middle segment of the film where Valerian and Laureline (tangent: I wish the film had a different title, either “Valerian and Laureline”, or “The City of a Thousand Planets”; because it kinda sucks to have the title mainly focus on only 1 of the 2 main protagonists) get separated. From getting pulled up by the electric butterflies up until they escape their captors, the entire movie drags. This entire segment could’ve been thrown out and left on the cutting room floor and the film wouldn’t have suffered from missing it, at all. The only reason I can think of as to why this entire prolonged “rescue” portion of the film is here is to have an excuse to showcase a dance scene.

I mean, that dance scene is cool and all, but it distracts from the rest of the film. So does the entire “rescue” segment of which the dance part is a part of. I mean, one could argue a similar opera scene in The Fifth Element is every bit as much of a tangent as this is, but that film actually had a legitimate excuse to put that in there. Plus in The Fifth Element, it intercuts with an action scene. Plus The Fifth Element is better than this film in every way, save for visually. Because let’s face it, as much as I harp on the things in the film that irritated me, all of which I find to be legit grievances, there’s no denying that this is a good-looking film that makes use of the best CG currently has to offer.

So, a plot that should’ve been ditched in favor of a better one, chase scenes that go for too long, and a big fat tangent in the middle of the film, those are the big cons. Other than all that, I found the film to be fairly enjoyable. Decent enough action scenes, not every “high up” official ends up being an asshole (most of the time in films like this, all political/military “higher ups” tend to fall on the villainous side), and there’s enough entertainment to be had from everything else. Cool to see how some of the technology works, and cool to see how a couple of these alien creatures live and work. It’s just a pity we couldn’t get a film that was more about that previous sentence. Makes me feel less bad about the fact that this bombed theaters, like John Carter (that movie didn’t deserve to bomb).

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