There’s no other way of putting it, but it sucks that the most imaginative movie of the year so far has such a basic storyline and dull protagonist. It’s quite sad the movie itself is titled by its least attractive component. Nothing against Dane DeHaan, he is an incredibly talented actor, but there is no universe in which he’s the coolest guy around. As hard as he might try, there is no way in which he’ll convince me he holds the same swagger as Harrison Ford and if there’s one problem with Valerian is its horrific miscasting of its titular character, that and the fact that it feels like someone fulfill quests in a boring video-game, inching towards that bigger picture that’s not really that interesting.
That being said, before I began bashing Valerian, I did mention it being the most imaginative film of the year so far. From the hopeful opening sequence that promotes the gathering of races from all over the universe coming together for the advancement of the most multi-cultural civilization ever know to the galaxy, Luc Besson crafts a kaleidoscopic vision of a space opera like no one else. The melting pot of bright colors, elegant costumes, and billions of aliens seem to transcend the boundaries of Star Wars at times, the only problem being every-time we want to relish the scenery we’re anchored down by our silly stereotypical human characters. I understand that Valerian & Laureline were humans in the graphic novel this film is based on, but to infuse them with a bit of character wouldn’t hurt; it’s weird to reach a point where Cara Delevingne is out-acting Dane DeHaan.
Back to the visual majesty of this film, some of the action sequences in this film are some of the most inventive I’ve ever seen put to film, such as their first mission which involves retrieving a precious item from a market-place that’s only present in a separate dimension or a sequence involving Valerian having to jump from one ecosystem to another as he chases down fugitives in Alpha. It seems as if Besson has outdone himself constructing the most beautiful space-opera of the decade, yet it also seems he’s underperformed when it comes to delivering well-developed characters.
Tapping into the randomness of this films myriad of cameos, I’d also like to dedicate a random cameo aimed at the weirdness that these cameos instill. It’s these very cameos that make the film feel like patched side-quests from Mass Effect, as either Laureline or Valerian have to resort to a sleazy-costumed celebrity. At one point we follow Laureline essentially go fishing and as beautiful as the underwater location looks, you have to realize we’re essentially spending a chunk of this film’s actual runtime watching Cara Delevingne accompany a pirate-patched cameo-ing actor go stare at really big space-whales.
As scenic as Valerian might be, there’s not much else to it, like a gorgeous airhead. If I could describe the Valerian viewing experience, it’s like going to a beautiful meadow for way too long. Initially, you’re captivated by the majesty nature presents you with and after a while you get hungry and you’re completely irked by the fact that there’s no food anywhere near you, I guess you still have the view but there’s an annoying sensation of emptiness that just won’t go until you leave and grab something good to eat.