MOVIE BUFF-ET: Sleep-inducing ‘Valerian’ places style over substance


“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a visually arresting movie with fantastic special and digital effects. The film is visually stunning.

However, the feast for the eyes quickly becomes a mind-numbing slog of a sci-fi movie that was truly difficult to sit through without dozing off.

I knew the film had received poor early reviews, but that’s not uncommon. Other sci-fi movies I had previously enjoyed had been reviewed poorly but, wow, I was not prepared for how vapid this film turned out to be.

New In Local Theaters

  • Atomic Blonde (R) 1 hr. 56 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Fiesta Square, Malco Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer
  • The Emoji Movie (PG) 1 hr. 31 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Fiesta Square, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer

I had high hopes going into the movie. Director Luc Besson’s “Fifth Element” is a cult classic, and his recent “Lucy” was a solid piece of filmmaking. However, Besson veered off that road.

Instead of serving up action and adventure that matched the creativity of his visuals Besson, who was also responsible for the screenplay, opted to torture viewers with talking-head exposition, delivered with slug-like enthusiasm by his cast.

Dane DeHann as Valerian and Cara Delevingne as Laureline are interesting looking actors, and perhaps with different material they could play effective heroes, but both brought such a low-key, disinterested energy to their performances that there’s nothing for the audience to latch ahold of.

If one or the other had of brought a bit more pizazz, the contrast might have been entertaining, but both seemed bored in their roles and their emotional dissidence sucked the life out of the film.

The movie is based on the long-running French comic-book series “Valerian and Laureline,” which I am going to look up at some time in the future. The two characters are time- and dimension-traveling officers, who are also lovers.

Any comic book that inspired the visuals for this movie is worth checking out, but I do hope the comics have a more interesting story to tell than what Besson chose to do with this achingly boring movie.

My expectations may have been too high going into the film, but “Valerian” is a mess of a movie, despite its stunning visuals.

Story should always be the trump card with any movie, not the special effects. TV shows like “The Twilight Zone,” “Lost in Space,” and “Star Trek” are considered classics for telling great stories built around the characters, despite their shoddy visual effects.

If the story is compelling, and the characters feel true, an audience can overlook mediocre or even poor special effects. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the other way around.

(PG-13) 2 hrs. 17 min.
Grade: D

Classic Corner

Seven Days in May
If a taut, political thriller is something that you can’t resist, then you might want to set your DVR to record “Seven Days in May” at 11 a.m. CST on Saturday on Turner Classic Movies.

The 1964 John Frankenheimer classic seems almost as plausible today as it did when it hit the big screens during the tension-filled mid-1960s, considering the outlandish escapades reported daily from Washington D.C.

The plot centers on members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff staging a coup d’état to unseat the President of the United States. The movie boasts a strong cast, particularly in its three pivotal roles.

Burt Lancaster plays Air Force Gen. James Scott, who is leading the coup because he believes President Jordan Lyman (Frederic March) is unfit to lead based on his desire to sign a disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union.

Kirk Douglas plays Col. “Jiggs” Casey, who is against signing the treaty, but it appalled when he discovers the plot to overthrow the government.

Lancaster, Douglas, and March are all great in their roles, with each performance displaying the various strengths and weaknesses of their characters set against the uncertainty of the situation. While the coup is treason, Douglas’ character struggles because he firmly believes the treaty with the Soviets is ultimately a bad move for his country.

Frankeheimer crafts a film that questions the loyalty, morality, judgment, reason, and honor of the three main characters as they make face dire questions and makes fateful decisions.

Knowing that the script was written by Rod Serling, one could imagine a similar setup in an episode of the “Twilight Zone,” the ironic sci-fi/fantasy series that made the writer famous, but he eschews the ironic twists of his most notable works and opts for a more of a morality play, which in turn is a bit surprising.

The film is riveting. It’s exciting to watch Lancaster, Douglas, and March go at each other in such a compelling film.