The visuals resemble a mash of Avatar and Star Wars as if it were their ugly newborn love child
Valerian is one of those films that has simply tried too hard. Every corner of the film is filled with something, good or bad, and this makes for a rapidly confusing watch. So much so, it becomes increasingly easy to switch off as the film progresses. It is impossible to understand most of what is going on, at least on a relatable level, and this is the key to why the film is so utterly unconvincing.
The story, taken from the French comic series Valerian and Laureline, tracks the pair as they carry out a mission on the planet Alpha, a vast metropolis host to millions of citizens. They are sent to the heart of the city to discover the reason for the disappearance of many troops before them, as well as to defeat whatever evil lies before.
The visuals resemble a mash of Avatar and Star Wars as if it were their ugly newborn love child. The design is interesting, but the actual final result is nothing new or even remotely pleasant to look at, which seems to be a theme running through every section of the film. The script is barbaric and unclear in its bold language. There is no strong dialogue bounding the story forward, just pointless attempts at sci-fi speak. There are times when Valerian would honestly have benefitted from being a silent picture.
Perhaps it has a leading pair of charisma and power who bring it back from the depths of Hollywood failure? Well… no. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne are not what Valerian needed. Laureline is the better of the two castings, with Delevingne showing how interesting she can be, but she isn’t the name needed to elevate this style of film. The casting may have worked if Valerian was a strong character but DeHaan simply is not that. Nor can he act it. His relaxed, diminished demeanor is off putting from a character who is needed to drive the story forward. He doesn’t connect with Delevingne particularly well and his screen presence is completely wrong.
This is a film of dire proportions. However much passion Luc Besson ploughed into it, there is no way around the fact that it is confusing, unengaging and underwhelming. The leading pair don’t gel together, the animation is not the quality it should be and the script doesn’t propel forward a strong source material. It has to go down as a failure, but the fact it’s an independent film is graciously admirable, however awful it is.