Jupiter Ascending is an objectively bad movie. The plot is convoluted, Mila Kunis is a strained lead actress, and there is a just something stupid in the ridiculousness of it. Yet, makers of The Matrix, the Wachowskis are so heinously full of passion and excitement that it feels more enjoyable and watchable, despite its faults. You’ll laugh a lot – intentionally and unintentionally – but with that much spirit, it is impossible to not be thoroughly entertained.
I’m no longer afraid to say it: I love Jupiter Ascending.
Oh…why am I talking about Jupiter Ascending? Oh, because I really wanted Valerian to be like that. But the pure and excitable energy of the Wachowskis cannot be replicated. Certainly not by a director whose heart has been seemingly lost in his recent ventures.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on a comic book series called Valerian and LL. The film revolves around Alpha – a developed space station called Alpha which is home to thousands of different aliens, working in harmony for centuries. When a mysterious unidentified race causes a ruckus on the spaceship, Valerian is enlisted to uncover their secrets…
Valerian is a pretty little film with spectacular visuals and is certainly a colourful creation of different creatures. The creator of The Fifth Element certainly has a hand at spectacular space craft and it is a highlight here. The imagery on the big screen is inventive and new.
That’s where all the goodness ends. With a stiff story that can barely be stretched over the two hour run-time, hammy interactions with lifeless characters, and nonsensical ploys throughout, Valerian is a sloppy and agonisingly depressingly boring. Sleep inducing, in fact
I love Dane DeHaan, particularly when he is playing brooding and creepy villainous roles. He is a fantastic actor. However, despite his age and talent, DeHaan doesn’t seem to fit comfortably with the heroic grandeur of the character. Older, buffer, tougher? It feels wrong to swipe at DeHaan this way but the casting simply doesn’t fit here, no matter how DeHaan tries to make it.
Let’s talk about Laureline, shall we? Look, I’m all for kick-ass female characters as much as the next person but being able to punch someone in the face and then follow that with a smart quip does not equate to a strongly written female character. Especially when their dialogue is this:
WEIRD DRUNK, ELEPHANT TRUNK WEARING, PLATYPUS THING:
Humans are unpredictable
LAURELINE shoots this WEIRD DRUNK, ELEPHANT TRUNK WEARING, PLATYPUS THING:
Clearly, you’ve never met a woman.
I thought we had moved past this type of wooden talking. Also, irritatingly, she is immediately introduced as the love interest for Valerian. Their first scene together sees him passionately embrace her, against her wishes, on a hologram beach before she derides him for his past conquests (again, it feels weird, because Dane Dehaan just doesn’t fit the role.) It is sloppily written work. What’s worse is that Laureline’s dialogue and character isn’t the worst: There are outdated archetypes fitted into a story that feels like Avatar on acid.
The best summary I’ve heard for Valerian and the City for a Thousand Planets is “It’s basically about a creature that shit pearls.” If you are game for that, and roughly two minutes of Rhiana’s face despite her being a focus of the marketing, then Valerian is for you. However, it is a disappointing venture for Besson.
Soulless and heartless, but with very pretty visuals, this is a tedious space romp that could have done so much more.
I think I’ll stick with Jupiter Ascending.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!