Valerian: An underwhelming dissapointment

Leonardo Paley

When George Miller originally conceived Mad Max: Fury Road, he wanted it to be in black and white. The producers immediately shut him down saying a film in black and white today wouldn’t work, and it became the colorful marvel that it is today.

In many ways, the producers were right; color and visuals sell a film today. Unfortunately, it often ends up the only focus. James Cameron’s Avatar comes to mind, with a budget of magnificent proportion only for it all to be spent on visuals and none of it actually spent on the story.

Sadly, Valerian falls into this category of films that focused so heavily on visuals — they didn’t focus on story. The problem with Valerian is that if it was in black and white, it would be awful. Even with its wide array of colors and visuals, they aren’t good enough to carry the film.

Coming from a source as in-depth as the comic it’s based off of, Valerian & Laureline, which ran from 1967 until 2010, it’s almost impressive how unoriginal and poorly written Valerian is. The comic influenced science fiction and fantasy heavy weights such as Star Wars and Star Trek, helping to form a genre out of early camp sci-fi films and comics like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and sci-fi Golden age of the fifties, the films takes none of the originality from the source material.

The characters are barely two dimensional, with comically bad dialogue and a romantic sub plot forced so poorly the resolution feels almost sickening. Dane Dehaan (Kill Your Darlings, The Amazing Spider-man 2, Chronicle)  and Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad, Anna Karenina) have proved they are capable actors, (Dehaan in particular in Kill Your Darlings alongside Daniel Radcliffe, Delevingne in Paper Towns with Nat Wolff) and both are wasted in this film.

Rihanna, a headliner for the movie, is in for barely twenty minutes and is given almost no character traits, let alone any character development. Valerian is a mere continuation of the trend of taking a source and ruining it with visuals.

When it was announced that Luc Besson (Lucy, The Fifth Element, The Proffesional, Taken franchise) would direct the film with long time collaborator Thierry Arbogast as cinematographer, I was excited for how the film would look as Besson and Arbogast have proved before  they can make visually stimulating movies. Somehow, none of this carries over into Valerian.

Besson was fortunate enough to rope Weta Digital (Avatar, Lord of the Rings trilogy, new Planet of the Apes series), ILM (Star Wars franchise, Harry Potter franchise, Star Trek franchise, Terminator franchise) and Rodeo FX (Pacific Rim, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Game of Thrones), three of the biggest and arguably best visual effect companies in the world. Besson wasted every single one of them on this movie.

It was a surprise when Besson announced early on who the visual effects studios that would working on the film, something rarely done in the industry. Despite having the three heavyweights working together, the studios were unable to make visuals that properly complimented the film. While the fully computer generated characters certainly look pretty, their interactions with the film clash horribly. When Cara Delevingne’s character interacts with a small computer generated creature, you can see the space in between her hand and the cg model, a flaw that is unacceptable in today’s standards and capabilities.

For a marketing campaign so heavily focused around how visually attractive the movie would be, Valerian is incredibly disappointing to watch. The story is severely lacking, the writing is unintuitive and unoriginal. Valerian struggles to succeed on any level.

1 out of 5 sails