Stunning visuals can’t save a film. We’ve seen evidence of this in movies like 2015’s Jupiter Ascending, whose sensational visual effects and star studded cast couldn’t manage to save a weak story.
It seems that this week’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets narrowly avoids falling into a similar pitfall, but just barely.
Based on the French comic series Valérian and Laureline, the film follows two young special operatives that go on adventures through the universe. Overall the story seems like it should be completely engrossing from start to finish, yet the film feels about half an hour too long. For a concept with so much potential, it feels like Valerian only lived up to half the story it could of been. The beginning into the middle was its strongest part, however audiences unfamiliar with the comics deserved some sort of origin story for the two leads, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne). We’re introduced to them as they start a new mission, however we never get any context as to how they got their positions, how they started working together, or very much else. Had there been a bit more explanation, it would’ve probably given viewers the chance to grow more attached to these characters, however, it was difficult to empathize with them.
More story context could have also helped saved the lack of chemistry between Dehaan and Delevigne on screen. The supposed romance between the two was almost undetectable, even in scenes where the dialogue called for sparks. Each actor still managed to carry their own solid performance, however. Delevingne’s character Laureline seemed to especially drive the story despite the title being partial towards her counterpart, but both brought a decent amount of life and charm to their characters. Rihanna, although limited in her screen time, also added a fun element to the film with her shape-shifting character Bubble, who provides an enchanting spectacle that viewers will enjoy.
Valerian was not by any means a bad movie, but it didn’t feel as captivating as it could’ve been. It’s fun, intergalactic optics and big name roster drove the film halfway, but the storylines weren’t particularly clear and compelling. Nevertheless, as long as audiences don’t rely too much on the central romance or the background of the characters, Valerian is entertaining enough. Attractive visuals and effects are this film’s strong point, and that is what viewers should look forward to.
The film hits theaters this Friday!