Besson’s stars fail to shine
It’s common knowledge that many cinematic sci-fi adventures have been heavily influenced by Star Wars – but what helped inspire George Lucas’ iconic saga set in a galaxy far, far away?
Lucas has admitted he borrowed ideas from Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s work, but French comics series Valérian and Laureline – first published 10 years before A New Hope hit the big screens – propelled several of the concepts, storylines and designs found throughout the original Star Wars trilogy.
It’s surprising, then, that it has taken this long for a movie version of Valerian to come along; and it’s all thanks to the dedication and drive of French helmer Luc Besson.
As well as directing and writing the script, Besson independently crowd-sourced and personally funded the project, co-producing with wife Virginie Besson-Silla, and the flick’s estimated $177-210 million budget makes it both the most expensive European and independent film of all time.
Whopping production costs, a comic book origin, influencing Star Wars and directed by the creative mind behind The Fifth Element – it’s safe to say Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets arrives with some weighty expectations.
Sadly Besson may have been too focused on getting the film off the ground to concentrate on hiring the best actors to bring his dream project to life.
Dane DeHaan (Major Valerian) and Cara Delevingne (Sergeant Laureline) aren’t quite Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen in the Star Wars prequels-bad, but don’t convince as special operatives out to save the universe.
It’s the supporting players – particularly Ethan Hawke (Jolly the Pimp) and Rihanna (Bubble) – that make more of an impression and the lack of fist-pumping heroism and chemistry between the two leads is a real hindrance to the adventure.
Fortunately, Besson and his production team fare much better when it comes to designing the jaw-dropping pixels behind a series of brilliantly bizarre creatures, cityscapes and interplanetary dimensions.
If you thought The Fifth Element was a kaleidoscope of vibrant visuals then you ain’t seen nothing yet as Valerian and Laureline rarely get a minute’s peace during a multitude of memorable encounters packed with danger.
But Besson struggles to pad out the two-hourplus running time with enough interesting plot points and there’s a stretch in the middle third where it feels like everyone is just killing time until the perilous final mission kicks in.
As a result, this is far from the Frenchman’s finest, but it is a definite improvement on his previous film – the vastly overrated Lucy.
However, it’s hard to see Valerian the movie influencing future sci-fi in the manner of its comic forebear.
On a different planet DeHaan and Delevingne in action