Valerian is a space romp through exotic locations and strange creatures and dangerous situations. The titular City of a Thousand Planets is a space station that has been slowly built up over a long time by many different races. It started out as a human space station, which explains why humans run the place. This movie is full of fantastic visuals and settings. Unfortunately, the feel of the place is rarely there.
So, I have not read the original comics, so there’s that. But Valerian is a movie that doesn’t work on a few levels. What I did like included the story, though. I’ll talk about it more in the spoiler section, but that was good. The visuals are pretty great. The thing is, the movie is too fast-paced and manic to really give me a reason to appreciate or care.
The opening scene is great, though. It’s just at the right pace to show the growth of the City of a Thousand Planets. The next scene after that, on Mul, is also fantastic. That’s the kind of thing I wanted more of. We get a good look at Mul and how life works on there. And everything there is gorgeous. I will say that the significance of the scene isn’t apparent for a while, making it seem like it’s just there.
Once the main characters, Valerian and Laureline come into the picture, though, things start getting hectic, and not in a good way. The visuals start just getting thrown out there without a reason. It wasn’t as bad in the marketplace, but in the actual City of a Thousand Planets, it just seems so hodge-podge and put together. I mean, it probably is, but still, I got no sense of scale to the city.
We get introduced to both of the main characters well into their relationship and stuff and we never get to know them at all. Valerian is a quip machine, but he doesn’t have the charm to endearing quality to pull it off. I didn’t feel a reason as to why he was the main character. Laureline is better, but we also know even less about her, leaving her just as Valerian’s partner. The two of them feel underdeveloped.
I think part of the problem comes from them spending large parts of the movie away from each other. We see a lot of what they would do for each other, but we don’t see what they would do with each other. That leaves out of why we should care about their relationship.
So, while the visuals are great, a high pace and main characters without much depth weaken the movie. I do have a lot to say in the spoiler section, so read on if you want some of that. I do go into more things I like about the movie there.
Here we go!
My favorite character of the movie has to be Bubble. She feels more real than the other characters. She was interesting to watch and is a fun alien character. I wanted more of that. The other military characters are also solid.
Onto the plot, the movie feels like there are two segments that are uneeded, which is unfortunate because both of them are pretty cool in both characters and visually. But they just stop the main plot in an unnecessary way.
The people of Mul, they were great. They are sort of like the perfect idealized race kind of people, but they’re still really interesting to see. And I liked how grounded the actual story turned out to be. It wasn’t like some giant space monster was attacking or anything, and at no point in the movie was the City of a Thousand Planets in danger of being destroyed, so yay on that.
They do telegraph who the actual bad guy is so heavily that I wonder why they tried to hide it at all.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has great visuals and a nice story, but it’s hampered by underdeveloped main characters. I pretty much care about all other characters more than them. Oh well.