Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Review

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Time to check out a recent Sci-Fi film by the name of Valerian. I remember seeing the trailer a few times but being skeptical as to whether it’d be good or not. It looked like the kind of movie that would rely on weird environments and good visuals over the story or good characters. I wasn’t really wrong on some of that and the characters are pretty bad, but the film is reasonable. At the very least the film is pretty fast paced.

The film starts off with our two main characters, Valerian and Loreline. They are tasked with collecting a money hedgehog and do so after beating up everyone involved with the transaction. During a universal peace conference they are attacked by a group of blue beings who were thought to be long extinct. The heroes head off to stop them but they may be in for a political war that is above their pay grade.

Valerian is unfortunately a pretty bad main character. He’s a serious flirt who even has a playlist of everyone he has “conquered.” That’s as bad as it sounds. His next target is Loreline and he is slowly breaking through her defenses. Even aside from his morally disappointing personality, he isn’t even that strong. He is portrayed as an elite agent who never fails and that’s why he is supremely confident. Yet, in his first mission in the film he has to be rescued by Loreline because he made a bunch of rookie mistakes and got wrecked. It’s something that happens a little too often in live action productions where the hype characters simply can’t live up to their reputation. He just never becomes a good character which is unfortunate.

Loreline is the main heroine and I can’t say that she is any better. She is also supposed to be a hype character as well as the “tough” one in the group. This is quickly negated as she loses to Valerian in wrestling during the opening minute. She gets her ”burns” in as she mocks him and his playlist but knowing about it just makes her inevitable pairing with Valerian even worse. She also spends the entire film glaring which is certainly trying a little too hard to be tough.

It’s the side characters who are a little better as is sometimes the case. The main villain is a political General from the army who covered up a bunch of murders. He keeps his confident persona even when being attacked and threatened. He makes a good speech at the end and is always many steps ahead of the other characters. He was playing chess while they were playing checkers. One weird moment was when he was kidnapped though. The whole time I figured it was part of his plan, but it seems unlikely by the end. I guess he just wasn’t ready for the aliens to make their move.

Naturally the film has to force in a very long strip show scene which introduces a shape shifting character. Not only is this the worst way to introduce a character but this is a sci-fi trope that needs to die. It seems like a bunch of alien based films love to show off the costumes or cgi by including a scene like this or set pieces where everyone forgets to dress out well. It’s something that should never happen as if you feel a need to show off your animation then it probably wasn’t very good to begin with. The character is all right I guess but her role is rather small and needlessly tragic. I didn’t really see a point to her dying. It doesn’t work for shock value since we didn’t know her and from a narrative perspective it had no impact on any of the characters.

This film apparently had a really big budget and I think it was misplaced. Through my followings with RWBY, I’ve gotten to see a lot about how a budget is spent in terms of animation and how it is often not worth it. You can spend a significant chunk on a cgi landscape with a lot of NPCs in the background. Those guys don’t matter so why spend budget on them? I’d say that a budget should be spent primarily on fight scenes, backgrounds are secondary. This film had some nice backgrounds, but a good chunk of it was in a very ancient desert planet and then on a beach with no technology. So I’m assuming that the bulk of the budget was spent on Valerian running through various worlds in the quick 5 minute scene. Using up a huge budget on a minor scene is just not worth it and using practical effects would possibly have cut the budget in half then. The sci-do guns look good and the fight scene where Valerian takes on a bunch of ogres was good. Use the budget for that instead and have a super speed battle where he is zipping around then at lightning speed and dodging energy blasts. Now that would be hype!
I have to question how useful the cannon tech from the first scene was as well. Sure, the villains were pretty scared of Valerian and he was invisible so they had a hard time hitting him but he was still there and would have been destroyed if he couldn’t jack out. An impressive piece of tech to be sure and virtual reality has certainly peaked in this universe but the heroes may want to start thinking of better security options.

The robots made for pretty good minions for the main villain. They would have been perfect if they had also been bulletproof. As it stands, Valerian was able to dish out the pain against these guys but they got a lot of the aliens in the process. The aliens really shouldn’t have just walked outside while defenseless in front of the enemy. They were practically asking to be shot and I get how they’re pacifists and all, but at least do the peace thing behind the magical barrier. Alls well that ends well for the survivors though so at least the race isn’t extinct.

As mentioned earlier, Valerian’s best strength is in the film’s quick pacing. It’s over 2 hours, but the movie never drags on and you’ll stay entertained the whole time. It may make its share of mistakes and so I wouldn’t call it a good movie, but at least it’s a fun one the way that Resident Evil is enjoyable. The two are still in completely different leagues when it comes to quality as well. I think there could be some potential for a sequel here since there’s a lot you can do in space, but I want them to head to a high tech world that can take advantage of the future setting. Also, give the main actor/actress some more sleep before filming next time. They look dead tired in every scene of the film to the point where I’m sure they must have gone through many takes for each scene.

Overall, Valerian is one of those movies that just tries to throw a lot of things at the screen and hopes they will stick. Unfortunately it is very 50/50 in this regard. The film needed more action scenes and choosing a desert planet and then a beach planet when the film is supposed to be futuristic was a mistake. Get some better characters and then we can really begin thinking of a sequel. Until then, this film will need to stay under the radar as we open the way for other sci-fi films. If you just want a film where you get a future setting then I suppose this is a film worth checking out. There weren’t too many films that take place in the future this year. If you want a better film about the future, check out the DBZ Trunks movie.

Overall 5/10

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