July 21, 2017

In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha—an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

R: July 21st, 2017 | R: 137 minutes | R: PG-13

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Jonathan Jimenez's Review.

Valerian marks the most ambitious independent film yet brought to the big screen. A passion project for the director, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets gives life to the French comic book series. Yet despite the passion clearly dedicated to the film, it lacks the depth to truly pass that passion on to the viewer.

This live action rendition of the French comic centers on the intergalactic special agents Valerian and Laureline as they combat sexual tension and investigate the impending doom of a giant space station. As they work to protect the station against a growing radioactive zone that has killed everyone that has attempted to investigate it before them, it becomes apparent that their mission isn’t exactly as it seems. Discovering a species from a planet thought to have been destroyed, they begin to realize that they are pawns in a sinister ploy.

The universe explored in Valerian is truly stunning and awe-inspiring. Despite CGI that will likely seem outdated in just a few years, it manages to build color, life, and a mood through its environment that is sure to have much more staying power than the graphics that create the universe. Valerian manages to establish a world that is imaginative, fresh, and leaves the viewer curious for what more it has to offer. The creativity dedicated to building a full-fledged world truly shines throughout the entire film.

Yet as superb as the environment is, it only ends up begging for better character and plot development to truly make the world shine. The dialogue in the film truly fell short and made it difficult to care about what our characters were going through. Moments that were meant to make the audience laugh or cry fell flat leaving the film as an upbeat but extremely bland experience. The film makes the age-old mistake of failing to “show not tell”. The characters motives and personalities are explained in list form during the first five minutes of their introduction rather than allowing us to discover who these characters are ourselves. Additionally, the leads were one-dimensional and predictable meaning that a majority of their interactions were superficial and disappointing. The storyline was interesting enough at its core, but it lacked the characters to sell its environment and its plot. The horrible shoehorned cameo from Rihanna only served to further confuse the story and highlights many of the films problems.

Despite its flaws (of which there are many), a part of me still truly wants to like Valerian. It is gorgeous and imaginative and it truly left me wanting to see more set in the universe. The sad truth is that the characters and the plot get lost as an afterthought behind its setting. Valerian is just good enough when it could have been a breakout success.

Rating: 2 out of 5