Since late 2009, when James Cameron’s spectacular ‘Avatar’ came out and became the highest grossing film at the time (until J.J. Abrams’ ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ broke that domestic box-office record a few years back), 3D was mainly used as a marketing gimmick in order to bring in the big bucks. Not to say that CG is a bad thing; I don’t mind looking at colorful characters or immersing myself in a world of beauty. I am starting to catch on to the techniques filmmakers are using. CG is looking more noticeable; making it really hard for me to “feel the moment” so to speak. There are times when the CG in Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ looks noticeable, but if one were to sit back and relax, you could immerse yourself in a world of beauty and realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem.
‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ is a really beautiful movie, and Luc Besson’s best movie I have seen so far. Those who know me should know that the name “Luc Besson” makes me nervous. From what I’ve seen in his directing credits, he had yet to impress me. ‘The Fifth Element’ is considered to be my most hated film of all time with its cringe-worthy supporting cast and too-campy nature; his “greatest” film ‘Leon: The Professional’ was tolerable, but didn’t strike me as great, while his collaboration with Martin Scorsese, who served as executive producer of the fish-out-of-water mob movie ‘The Family’, was not as terrible as ‘The Fifth Element’, but complex and hard to sit through. (I wish I had an opinion on ‘Lucy’, but I am still nervous to watch that film.) At times, ‘Valerian’ treads the path of annoying and uninteresting, but with some time, I was given a sense of humor, and I even grew to like its weird aliens and characters better than Chris Tucker’s extremely annoying Ruby Rhodes. (Yes, I did just say that,’Fifth Element’ fans! Sorry!)
If I could pick out any flaws, I would say that – despite being adapted from a French graphic novel – Besson took way too much inspiration from Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ in order to make ‘Valerian’ possible. The main aliens you see at the beginning of the movie (and ones you are supposed to care for), reminded me too much of the Na’vi from ‘Avatar’ with their facial features, while bits and pieces of plot seemed ripped from that movie. ‘Valerian’ also has elements from ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Fifth Element’ for the most part, but I didn’t seem to mind there than I did with the ‘Avatar’ elements. The world is still a beauty in this film.
I cannot end this without mentioning our heroes, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), who bicker in Shakespearean style. Their Benedick-and-Beatrice banter could go either way. You could either think it was clever and funny, or it could annoy you. I was given 50/50. Delevingne and DeHaan work well together, but maybe TOO well. As for the movie itself, Besson may have found something he’s good at, but he is not quite there at being a masterful director.