By Joseph M. Flint (Johnson City, NY, USA)
I remember seeing the trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and Awestruck. I thought to myself “This will be the next Avatar, no question”, but with a budget of $209 Million, and a return revenue of just $225.9 Million, I must have been one of a very select handful of people to have that vision. I went to go see it opening night, and like I had previously thought, I was blown away. The movie itself was visually stunning, the effects were nice and vibrant, costume design was amazing (In my mind, akin to movies like Star Wars), But the theatre only had three other people besides myself attending the showing.
So I bought the Blu-Ray copy of the movie when it was released to see why it was such a flop, and to my amazement I still couldn’t understand. The film was gorgeous. But it wasn’t until my third attempt to watch the film that I started to understand what was going on. Luc Benson is an amazing Director, giving us films such as The Fifth Element, The Taken Trilogy, and Kiss of the Dragon to name a few, but I’m hard pressed to wonder if he tried to make Valerian into something that it wasn’t right from the beginning.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on a French Graphic Novel Valérian and Laureline, which had its first issue début in 1967 in France. The market in the Americas was just not there, and I think that the film was advertised as something with a lot more following than it actually had. It had been given an outstanding budget and nowhere for it to really earn that money back outside of the zone of its source materials publication.
Mix that with its opening weekend being squashed in-between Dunkirk, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the final installment of The Planet of the Apes prequel series, it’s no wonder this film wasn’t seen by many, outside of die-hard fans like me, who saw the trailer and was immediately star struck. But the films problems go farther than that I’m afraid. With a cast of somewhat newcomers, Trailers that did not capture the movie’s storyline instead of its art style, and many lackluster reviews after its release by people who thought the storyline was the weakest part of the entire movie, it’s not a wonder that it flopped dramatically.
I will agree that the storyline itself was the not the movies strongest point, it’s still enjoyable to some. It’s the art style that the movie is so generous to show off that got me interested in the first place, but there are redeeming qualities to it. When you’re not being submerged into the ongoing romantic tensions between the two main characters, or the plain disregard for how a structured military actually runs, the idea behind the movie of redemption, and stepping up as a hero when nobody else will, holds strong. There’s just a lot you have to go through before you get that vision.
All in all, the movies visual depiction of how a city that houses many different species of aliens is its redemption for me. It’s visually stunning, but if you’re going to see this movie for its story line, be warned. It’s not the greatest in the lineup of the last years box office picks.