*. I’m sure I should hate this movie. I’ve railed enough times against the CGI revolution that in the twenty-first century has brought us a seemingly endless stream of video game/comic book/superhero fantasies (though I won’t say inexhaustible, since I think the genre was quickly exhausted). And since Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is clearly a CGI blockbuster video game/comic book/superhero fantasy that means it’s the Enemy.
*. I’ve also remarked on how the career of Luc Besson has just kept sinking after Nikita. In large part, but not entirely, because he fell in love with that same video game/comic book/superhero genre of filmmaking.
*. But I didn’t hate Valerian. To be sure, I didn’t think it was a great movie, but I was surprised at how little I disliked it. Even the leads, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, sort of grew on me once I got over just how strange they both look and how alien their delivery is. Is DeHaan trying to sound like Keanu Reeves, or is that just the way he talks?
*. And, also to be sure, there is much to dislike. It’s far too long, with an episodic plot that just slams from one far-fetched action scene to the next with little attempt at connection. There are whole effects sequences that have no purpose whatsoever other than to assault our eyes (for example Valerian’s short-cut through Alpha to intercept the kidnappers). The main aliens seem to have immigrated straight from Avatar, and their back story is weirdly analogized to the Holocaust (six million of their people die in what is described as a genocide but which appears to have been collateral damage).
*. Still, I didn’t find myself bored and some of the critters, when they weren’t trying too hard to be cute, were interesting. It was also a labour of love for Besson, who independently crowd-sourced and personally funded its $180 million budget, which made it not only the most expensive non-American and indepedent film ever made but testifies to just how great a labour of love it was. It would be weird if that kind of passion for the material, no matter how conventional it seems, didn’t show up on screen.
*. So, no hate from me. Yes it’s just a giant light show with plastic characters and no plot to speak of, but . . . I didn’t hate it. I really didn’t.