For as bug-nuts crazy as Luc Besson’s nonsense sci-fi epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is visually, there's no excuse for it being so fucking boring. And holy hell, is there a scientific term for a total lack of chemistry? Because that's what stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne have. Their on-screen relationship is a distinct kind of anti-charisma that’s like an anchor around the film’s neck.
I first thought of walking out of the theater the very first second, with the very first strains of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Not because of the song itself; it’s a classic song for a reason after all. But it’s also the absolute least-inspired choice Besson and company could have made, and it sets the table for a movie full of bland, tedious, vanilla choices. You’d think if you made a movie that cost more than $1 million a minute, you’d want to make it good, but apparently not.
No amount of eye-searing, candy-coated space mayhem can hide a movie this flat and tepid. And that’s kind of an accomplishment, because there’s some bonkers shit. Valerian is a movie where Delevingne’s Laureline literally sticks her head in the ass of a glowing alien jellyfish. There’s even a cute little space possum thing that poops out diamonds and powerful space bubbles. This should be my jam. On paper, it’s tailor made for me to clap and drool over like an imbecile. Instead, I spent almost every last moment rolling my eyes, wishing I could pull out my phone to check the time, waiting for it to end.
I could go into the world-building (probably the film’s strongest aspect) and the cool alien creatures, which are the things people who enjoy this are going to cling to. And under normal circumstances, I’m all about that kind of crazy and am abnormally forgiving of inanity wrapped in insanity. (I gave Gods of Egypt a positive review for crying out loud.)
It’s ambitious, yes, and there’s something to be said for the source material’s sweeping genre influence—traces of the French comics, their stories, ideas and designs, are found in tons of sci-fi properties, most notably Star Wars. But Valerian is drastically overlong and plodding, motivation proves a key pitfall throughout, there’s only one possible outcome and consequently zero tension or mystery, and no amount of dazzle and spectacle can sweep this vapid bullshit under the rug. [Grade: D]
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