Luc Besson, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne head to space in an ambitious take on the Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres comic book series.
Valerian begins with Pearls, a humanoid race, who find their peaceful and idyllic planet suddenly invaded as spaceships begin literally falling out of the sky.
One such beast destroys the planet with only a handful of survivors. These survivors set out to restore their planet using the power the pearls they farmed on their planet possess.
This takes them to Alpha, a floating space-station, where they come up against Commander Filitt, Clive Owen (Killer Elite, Children of Men).
Valerian and Lauraline are ordered to protect the commander on his mission to discover a radioactive threat at the heart of Alpha.
Valerian is vast and highly ambitious. The world that is crafted is simply stunning. Each and every alien species has been thought out and could, apparently, have a film of their own.
The CGI is fantastic and writer and director Luc Besson shows us this universe in glorious detail. He does a great job of quickly telling the story of Alpha and how it came to be.
This beginning features writers and directors Besson has worked with in the past including Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me, The Incredible Hulk), Benoit Jacquot (Le Adieux A La Reine, A Tout De Suite) and Olivier Megaton (The Taken Films, Columbiana) amongst others.
We also get the legendary Rutger Hauer as President of the World State Federation, Rihanna as Bubbles, Ethan Hawke as Jolly the Pimp and Herbie Hancock as the Defence Minister.
All this adds up to a fantastic cast with Delevingne a stand-out, she is superb as Lauraline. Owen is also great as the commander, he sets scenes alight when he’s on screen.
The main area of uncertainty for me was DeHaan. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Dane DeHaan is a great actor. I’m just unconvinced this was the right role for him.
The chemistry between he and Delavingne wasn’t quite there. I got the impression (and I haven’t read the source material) that Valerian was an older character. That certainly appeared to be how DeHaan was trying to play it.
He talks of a string of lovers and countless missions etc, etc. All the while he looks about 21 and delivers lines with a lackadaisical delivery that works brilliantly in movies like, A Cure For Wellness, but doesn’t help the needed sense of urgency, thrill and rush that is required here.
And that’s the main thing missing from Valerian. It is visually stunning. Delavingne, Owen, Rihanna, Hawke, Sam Spruell (as General Okto-Bar) all perform fantastically well.
But Valerian lacks the rush we experienced with Taken and The Fifth Element. It lacks the comedic value of the latter despite attempts to add it in. It lacks the heart, soul and desire to get behind the lead characters we had with, say Leon.
Look, I’m a HUGE Luc Besson fan, his films would make my top ten easily so it isn’t easy to say I didn’t enjoy something of his.
And actually, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it. I did. I laughed sometimes, I was wowed at others. I just wasn’t gripped. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat being thrilled and wowed as much as the onscreen visuals lead me to believe I should be.
As I write this, DeHaan and Delavingne are being interviewed on the radio. DeHaan has just said “Valerian is a real dynamic character”, in his slow, American drawl. And that kind of sums it up really.
He is a dynamic character, I just didn’t buy that DeHaan as Valerian is.
Additional: I have one final thing to say: Why on earth (or space) was this not made with IMAX cameras? It would have been stunning.