Thoughts on “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

This is the last movie in the 5-pack of science fiction movies that I picked up and watched a while back and am now trying to finish writing about so that I can move on to other things.   I’ll comment a bit on the pack itself at the end of this post.

The basic premise here is that after a nearby battle destroyed a planet an interstellar spy named Valerian and his companion/love interest Lauraline are sent to retrieve some stones that are key to a ritual that the natives of that planet have.  They, of course, meet a lot of interference in that mission, but eventually do manage to get it back to their superiors … only to have it stolen again by the aliens, setting off a mission to retrieve them.  Along the way, they discover that their superior was responsible for that disaster and should never have fired when he did, and so have to fight against his robotic soldiers to bring that alien race back to the galaxy.

The sad thing about this movie is that it could have made for an excellent light sci-fi spy romp.  The action is pretty good and it definitely puts a priority on making the action fun and using the plot as an excuse to get into the action.  The only downside to that is that the movie sometimes takes detours into exploring the world of the future when it really should be getting to the action parts.  This isn’t a problem at the beginning of the movie, but towards the end after Lauraline is captured by brutal thug-like aliens the movie detours into sending Valerian to some kind of entertainment broker which involves a lot of talking and discussion and a musical number, all so that he can get his hands on some kind of disguise device — and an alien to use it — for his plan.  For something so minor, it goes on for far too long when he had no idea what they were going to do with Lauraline and when the clock was ticking on the mission.  But while that sequence hurts the ending there, that’s a relatively minor — but noticeable — offense for a space spy romp.

So what, then, really hurts the movie?  The fact that neither of the main characters look like spies in the James Bond mold and yet the movie treats them as if they are supposed to be thought of that way.  Valerian is not at all any kind of suave, debonair, exceptionally sexy spy, and Lauraline — played by model Cara Delevigne — isn’t that sort of sexy spy either.  And that’s okay, because it’s been noted that what you want for a spy are people that are more nondescript and aren’t memorable and don’t stand out, and so if the movie was playing with that it would be interesting.  However, Valerian is noted for having a lot of women on his record, which is the reason that Lauraline doesn’t want to marry him, and the movie constantly has people talk about how beautiful Lauraline is, which she uses to get her way at times.  Except they aren’t attractive enough to pull that off, and so the movie treating them as if they are really takes me out of the movie.  If they had either picked leads that better fit the sexy spy model or else had run with plainer spies subverting the expected tropes the movie would have worked so much better.

As it is, the movie is kinda fun, and so fits into the category of movies that I might want to watch again at some point but won’t rewatch any time soon.  There’s just not enough in the movie to make it interesting to watch again, and it doesn’t quite work as a simple, light, space spy action movie.

So, out of the five movies, I think the best one is Dredd, for whatever that’s worth.  Then probably comes Looper, Valerian, Snowpiercer and Hotel Artemis.  For the most part, what I’d say is that unlike some of the other packs all of these movies have good production values, and yet all of them are sufficiently flawed to get me to not want to rewatch them any time soon.  Thus, the whole pack goes into my box of movies to maybe rewatch at some point in the future.

I step outside of packs for my next sci-fi movie, which is “The Fifth Element”.  Whenever I get around to writing about it, of course.

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