An emotionally invested enthusiast of pop culture in the guise of a Copywriter. Apathetic by design. Aesthetically offensive and eloquently candid. A sentimental heathen.

I am a sucker for mindless entertainment, especially those that offers eye candies. Watching movies and series where I could just strap in and enjoys the ride with a laugh are one of my favorite pastime – even if lately I tend to skewed towards Korean variety show more for obvious reasons. So a movie that brought Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevigne, and Kris Wu together is one I consider watching more than once. I just never thought I’d consider doing so on mute.

After they successfully completed their mission and rescued a rare animal called transporter, Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) returned to Alpha, a space station that has developed into a city of thousand planets and countless species. But their return was welcomed with news that Alpha has been infected by unknown force. Tasked to guard Commander Fillitt (Clive Owen), Valerian and Laureline must untangle not only the mystery of this marauding foe, but also their own ambiguous relationship.

To be frank, I never expected any cerebral sci-fi or intricate storyline with mind blowing twist. With that cast ensemble and Luc Besson’s visual, I only needed decent narrative and passable dialogue to be satisfied. My bar of expectations was set at “normal-to-low” setting, and Valerian still failed to jumped over it. I could cope with lazy writing and by the book three act structure. I could cope with uninspired revelations and unimpressive villain of the week. But if even I (whom, admittedly, had really high tolerance to pretty face spouting cheesy lines) wasn’t able to cope with listening to Dane fucking DeHaan delivering his lines, then those dialogue really need a further inspection.

I didn’t asked for Sherlock’s level of banter, I’d settle for a John Wick. Instead, Valerian gave me dialogues that, with all due respect, sounded like something straight out of a badly written fanfiction. You know, the cringy kind that existed in every fandom but somehow are very pertinent in K-Pop fanfiction. It’s not just cheesy and cringe-worthy, those I could glossed over. In the right hands, it could even made watching this kind of styles-over-substance movie more enjoyable. The lines in Valerian, though, were lifeless overused cliche. I know nothing is original under the sun, and I can accept if it was Luc Besson’s homage to the comics’s original tone. But surely there are ways to avoid making them all sounded like some reused lines from previously existed works… right?

The lack of gusto or even distinction in the dialogue made it really hard for the casts to salvaged them. Dane DeHaan is good, but even he could barely made Valerian appeared to be more than two dimensional. Sure, he’s supposed to be this cool sword brandishing casanova who had trouble showing his weakness and admitting his feelings. But considering how he could made Harry Osborn seemed so intriguing despite limited screen time, he could’ve give Valerian depth had he got more material to work with. Cara Delevingne at least fit Laureline’s sassy personality better than timid June Moore, but she still struggled to conveyed emotions when needed and the lines she got to say didn’t help. Rihanna’s Bubble was a mere plot device with sob story to induced empathy thrown into the mix, and the only one who actually left an impression was Ethan Hawke’s Jolly the Pimp. Everyone else was replaceable, their dialogues interchangeable, and frankly I only remembered Kris Wu’s Sergeant Neza because it’s… Kris Wu.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’s only salvation, then, was its look. I’m not just talking about the aforementioned three mannequins, even though they helped. But in terms of visual, Luc Besson really delivered with Valerian. It was a beautifully breathtaking spectacle. It’s the type of movie where you could press pause at almost any given time, and capture a wallpaper worthy picture. Through the opening scenes, he established Valerian’s universe and helped viewers adjusted to it. Then throughout the movie, he explored the various species and planets that existed in the universe. Perhaps he did so to showcased just how wonderful Valerian’s universe is, or to set up clues and chances for a sequel (if there will ever be one). Perhaps he did so because he’s a true fan of the comic and didn’t want to discount the exquisite visual the comic was known for. But it kind of felt like he did so just because he can. Those were money shots and I am awed by them, but it was obvious they were there just for show as they contributed little to nothing to the story. At least they made Valerian more enjoyable, since there were barely any excitement. Those action sequences were good, but they could definitely be great.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets would be a wonderful movie if I watched it back when I was in high school instead of now. My tolerance to cheesy dialogue were higher then. As it is though, Valerian was just a movie with magnificent visual and hair-raising spectacle. It’s a cinematic experience that is best seen on the big screen, but would be far better if you could watch it with someone whom you could make a joke out of the dialogues with.

 

Director: Luc Besson. Writer: Luc Besson. Released on: 28th July 2017. Casts: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Kris Wu, Sam Spruell, Ethan Hawke.

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