Set in a distant future where the human race has had contact with many different alien species, agents Valerian and Laureline are part of the…”human army/Federation” thing. They get caught up in what is at its heart a mystery and set out to solve it on their home base of (yup you guessed it) a city of a thousand planets.
This film is way too ambitious for its own good. I recognised that the original comic inspired many of today’s sci-fi series like star wars but this film fails to distinguish itself enough from other films in the genre. It ended up coming off as just okay, average.
Let us talk about the strength of the film first in which there are two main ones. First, it’s’ visual style is just stunning to look at. The CGI is pretty damn good during most scenes and they just make the world feel so vibrant. There are also many diverse environments which all have their own unique look. Need proof? Just look at the trailer. Second, its action sequences I find are really well filmed and creatively choreographed. Some sequences are really quite fun to watch.
However, the flaws of this film are aplenty. There are 3 main things the plot is about, the main mission of the 2 main characters, the relationship dynamic and progression of the 2 main characters and lastly world building, lots of world building. The main mission feels kind of standard and despite having the tools at their disposal to come up with an interesting conclusion to the entire thing, the one they did come up with felt boring and cliched.
The characters also started off as interesting, presenting them in a more show less tell manner. Their witty back and forth playful flirting also really worked. However, things get serious very abruptly and that’s when their chemistry starts to fall a bit flat. Their character arcs, it being pretty threadbare, also started to be more tell and less show. I have to mention the casting here. Dane Dehaan I thought was just okay throughout the film but I do agree with others that he may have been miscast as his character is supposed to be this dashing, lady killer, James Bond in space type of character. While Dane Dehaan does have his charms and good looks, I do not think they really fit into that archetype but he does his best overall. Cara Delevinge is where I had more of an issue. At the start of the film, she portrays this snarky, sarcastic and capable agent, playing off of Dane really well and I enjoyed her performance. However, there were a few lines later on during some more intense, emotional scenes that were delivered so flatly that it actually brought me out of the film. I do not know whether it was on purpose like that’s how the character is but I just really did not buy into it. Also, her character arc felt like a half-assed attempt at establishing her as a strong independent character who can stand apart from Valerian but it is more a fault of the scriptwriting rather than her acting.
Lastly, the world building. This is such a vast and rich universe full of interesting characters, technology, and locations. However, in an attempt to show us as many of these as possible, a lot of the world-building scenes ended up being very exposition heavy and while stunning to look at, not very interesting. The world building that was weaved into the plot also made the middle section of the film feel very meandering and just detracted from the urgency of the main mission. Once again, I feel like it is the script writing at fault here.
In the end, the film meanders too much either due to world building or sequences to build up some character moment and ends up being too draggy. It was too ambitious and spread itself too thin. Up against juggernauts like Dunkirk and Baby Driver this weekend, I doubt it will fair that well commercially which is sad as this universe has a lot of potentials and I would not have minded seeing a sequel.