Movie Review: Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets

My sister and I went to the movies Tuesday night for $5 night at our local theater and saw Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets. And first, I just have two words:

Kris. Wu.

If you do not know who he is, just take a few seconds and look him up.

You’re welcome.

I actually had no idea who he was until it was announced that he was going to be in it. He didn’t have a major role in this film and didn’t even really have anything important to do until the very end of the movie but every time he made an appearance on screen, this was me:

Now let’s get to the actual movie. I initially wanted to see this movie due to all the science fiction-y goodness I saw in the previews. I’m always down for a good science fiction movie or book. Then when I found out that this movie was being directed and written by the same man that brought us The Fifth Element, I was sold. The Fifth Element is one of my favorite movies and I can watch it a million times no matter how corny it is.

In a nutshell, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is about two characters, Valerian and his partner Lauraline, and their mission to stop a force of some sort that threatens to destroy Alpha, which is a spaceship hub where thousands of different species and lifeforms live (separately, but in peace) including humans. During all of this, they come across a deeper mystery of a planet called Mül that was destroyed 30 years prior, has been erased from all history, and its entire species thought to be dead. But who destroyed this planet and what are they trying to hide?

The story line sounds promising, right? Only…it wasn’t. To me, it was all just very….flat. I don’t think it was executed well. And at the heart, the story was one that has been done before. In all honesty, it is comparable to James Cameron’s Avatar, which is pretty much just Pocahontas on blue steroids, and Pocahontas is just a watered down version of the U.S.’s history with Native Americans. Overall we have yet another group of indigenous beings living in happiness and harmony who have something that some greedy, power hungry white person wants. So what happens? They blow them off the face of the earth. Or in the case of this movie, blow them out of the cosmos. I don’t mind recycled story lines, I just ask that it be executed well.

The reasons I wasn’t sold on the delivery of the movie:

• The movie starts off a bit too slow and makes the viewer pretty confused as to what the plot of the movie really is. Confusion is not really a great way to start a movie. Intrigue us, don’t confuse us. Initially I thought something was attacking Alpha (the big spaceship hub where everyone lives) but then the movie ended up being more so about the mysterious planet that was erased while still trying to keep the peace between all the many different species. I leaned over to my sister about an hour into the movie (the movie is over 2 hours long) and said “What the heck is this movie even about? I have no idea how to explain any of this.” She had no idea either.

• We never really got past surface level of the plot, in my opinion. I was left wanting more. Give me more history of the movies’ characters, more information on Alpha and how it came to be and why, more history on the mysterious previously mentioned planet and its inhabitants, etc. Just give me more. Please!

•The storytelling. The storytelling and the script writing was just one big solid NO for me. Reasons being what I have mentioned above and what I am about to mention in my next bullet point. It all just didn’t mesh together well and again, was very flat. Maybe the original author of the original comic Valerian and Lauraline should have written the script or something.

• The actors that were cast as the leads. Just…why? If I am correct, I believe this was the first movie for both of these actors where they had major roles in a big budget movie. But in my humble opinion, it was just bad casting. Ugh. The chemistry was not there by any means and their constant flirty bickering was utterly annoying and felt forced, at most. Like, seriously, just about every single piece of dialogue between the two characters was arguing about the status of their relationship. The moments when they weren’t talking about their relationship and their feelings for each other (or the lack thereof) were when they were talking to other people. Like I said, annoying. Valerian had more chemistry with the character that Rihanna played in the movie and they were literally only together ten minutes out of the entire movie. Valerian was supposed to be this womanizing, macho, playboy but I was nowhere close to being fooled into believing that. And Lauraline was just too dull and sarcastic for my taste. While pretty, she rarely had any facial expressions and was just barely more interesting than Bella from Twilight. Barely. And since we have no history on these characters, and all we get is the forced affection between the two, I didn’t really understand the attraction. Bad casting choices. And if they really wanted to keep the actor that played Valerian, the relationship chemistry would have been more believable with Rihanna playing Lauraline. Just saying.

What I loved about the movie:

• The worlds. Omg the different worlds in this movie was so fantastical it left me wishing I could leave planet Earth, travel millions of lightyears away and meet an Alien. The visuals in this movie were absolutely enchanting and awe inducing. If you want to inspire imagination, this is the movie to do it, by all means. The sheer amount of weird, ugly, magnificent, and whimsy that graces the screen while watching this movie is enough to keep you up at night wishing you had the imagination that Luc Besson has.

• The aliens and creatures. Most specifically, the Pearls. The Pearls and their utopian world are the very first species we are introduced to where we know they have some type of significance to the story line. While the other alien species were cool, the Pearls were absolutely, mind-numbingly stunning.

I feel like pictures are not even doing them any justice.

They are definitely reminiscent of the Na’vi race in Avatar only more visually hypnotizing and less…heavy. More whimsical and aquatic. I’m not even sure how to put what I’m trying to say into words. But to keep it simple, they were gorgeous.

They have their own native language – which I loved – that sounded like a mix between French and Hawaiian and a couple other languages. Quite a strange mix but still cool and pleasing to the ear. The names of the Pearls definitely felt like a mix between being French, Hawaiian, and African inspired as well with names like Haban-Limaï, Empress Aloï, Mâatri. and Tsûuri.

The physical clothing of the natives was without a doubt African inspired with clothing being almost exact replicas of certain African tribal garb with a small twist.

If my research serves me correctly, this is a style prominent with tribes in Kenya. Regardless, I loved the African inspiration and I more than loved the Pearls. They were a peaceful people that were also extremely smart, wise, forgiving, and knew how to survive. If world peace were an achievable thing, they would without a doubt be the ones leading the way toward it. They have quickly become a mild obsession of mine actually, as they are now my phone lock screen… 🙈

• Lastly, I enjoyed the possible hidden messages in the movie. If not hidden messages, then they are definitely discussion points. I won’t name them for fear of spoilers but there were quite a few things that stuck out to me that happen in real life that people don’t even realize the harmfulness or importance of. If this were a novel, I would have tabbed so many pages!

Overall, I think this movie is enjoyable and I really liked it. Although the main characters were annoying and the plot a little lack luster, I can forgive that due to the amazing visuals. I would definitely watch it again (planning on going back to the theater for $5 Tuesday) and am kind of hoping for a sequel. If you watch and see the end of the movie, you will understand why there could be a sequel. But if there isn’t one, I can’t say I would have any hard feelings about that either.

Thanks for reading!



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