Valerian Opens Epic World, Forgets Introduction

I knew one thing going in to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets; I wanted one of those orange pet creatures from the trailer. Outside of that, I had no prior knowledge or expectations for the film. In most cases this isn’t a problem. In the case of Valerian, not knowing the source material meant having to do a lot of leg work to get oriented.

The film opens with some clips of space from the 70’s and a second long history on the titular City of a Thousand Planets. We are then transported 400 years into the future to a planet inhabited by beautiful, thin, very pale sea like land creatures that appear to have a very peaceful harmonious existence. That lasts about five minutes before an apocalypse occurs, this peaceful race is almost annihilated and a flash of light wakes up a guy on a beach.

My thoughts, at this point, were that we were about to get an awesome introduction into this new exciting universe. Those thoughts were only about a quarter accurate. Valerian does, indeed, open up a new exciting universe, but it is a very rude host.

We are thrust into the middle of Pierre Christin’s Valerian and Laureline, the comic book series upon which the film is based. Don’t panic if you haven’t heard of it, it’s French and began it’s run in the late 60’s. This is where my frustration with the film begins. No, I wasn’t frustrated because it was based on a French comic book, I was frustrated because it expected us to already have a working knowledge of said comic book.

There are going to be plenty of reviews that talk about the plot problems in this film, and they are right. However, the plot wasn’t the issue for me. I was on board with the wild left turns the film kept taking, but I was exhausted trying to fill in pieces of the universe that were only kind of introduced.

We hear a lot of complaints about origin stories in comic book films. However, we heard not a single complaint about that when it came to Guardians of the Galaxy. Why? Because Guardians wasn’t a widely popular comic book like Captain America or Batman. Mainstream audiences needed an origin story. Valerian and Laureline needed an origin story.

Christin’s comic books were popular among French audiences and I’d wager they have a pretty solid fanbase in the US as well, but were they mainstream enough to just jump into the middle with the first film? No. Director Luc Besson choosing to adapt the comic books with an English audience was a great idea. It’s an audience that is primed and excited to see comic book film adaptations. His mistake is that he did not give audiences the introduction they needed to ease into this exciting new epic world.

I didn’t dislike Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. In fact, I’d watch it again, especially on the big screen. It is a visually stunning film. And, sure there are some frivolous plot points that could have been cut out, but even those I was all in for. Besson created a tasty treat out of Christin’s world and I was happy for the extra exploring. In fact, exploring is what I wanted this film to be. A first expedition into a new universe that would eventually open up to many exciting new adventures.

My first thought when I left the screening was, ‘Who is going to get the theme park rights to this?’. I still want to know that answer. I want to see more Valerian and Laureline films. This world is too rich not to keep exploring. I just hope that they learn from this film do two things:

  1. Give the audience a little more background information and explain the universe in more detail
  2. Tighten up the plot. Make every encounter, space battle and cheesy quip count

There is a lot here and hopefully this film will have enough life to let Besson continue revealing and exploring the vast universe of which we only caught a glimpse. And, if that doesn’t happen, I’d still take a theme park ride or two, and I cannot wait to see the cosplay that comes out of this film.

 

Is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Worth Spending The Price of a Ticket?

Sure.

 

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Tipsy Recommendation:

A cosmo? That’s a poor attempt at a joke.

 

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Trailer

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