Valerian is a tough movie to review for me- there is just so much happening. I have a lot of different thoughts, but I think if I had to summarize it would be like this. Valerian is an ambitious, visually stunning movie with a weak story and uninspiring leads, but I'm still glad I saw it because it has heart, especially towards the end. Valerian and Laureline are agents in the 28th century who are called on to investigate strange goings- on in the massive space station Alpha. It's all over the place, with aliens and other planets and like I said amazing visuals. After hearing so much about the visuals, I didn't think they were the greatest thing ever, so don't be jaded about that, but they are pretty good.
Imagination is on full display here, and even though this movie is based on French comics you can see that Luc besson, the director, has put his stamp on it as well. Remember The Fifth Element? That was his movie too, and this is like that movie but maybe on steroids? I loved seeing some of the habitats and strange environments they found themselves in. I think a highlight of the movie for me though was the first set piece, a prolonged sequence where the agents must liberate a McGuffin from a nasty crimelord. The twist is that the mission requires them to infiltrate a market that is in another dimension, forcing them to use special glasses to see this other world and interact with it.
Again this was an amazing (at times) sequence and sets the movie up very well. It's too bad the movie couldn't carry that through the rest of the way. Valerian and Laureline very nonchalantly do their thing, running through an other dimensional market while being chased by all manner of creatures, and it's really cool how they blip in and out. They've clearly done these kinds of things many times, but that leads to one of the problems. Valerian in particular is supposed to be very experienced and badass, but the casting is... bad.
Dane DeHaan is cast as Valerian and he looks way too young and not nearly physical enough to fill that role. He is portrayed as a bit of a rogue, which is kind of laughable when he's trying to deliver his dialogue. Cara Delavinge is his partner Laureline, and she's much better here. Not exactly an acting clinic, and some of her dialogue made me cringe, but she holds her own and is much more convincing as a badass agent. In fact I rather liked her in this role, she has a wry smartass way about her and puts Valerian in his place quite a bit. With a better co- lead I think Cara Delavinge could have killed it in this role.
The story is kind of silly too, and Clive Owen seems wasted here as a very one dimensional bad guy. In fact, Clive Owen would have been a better Valerian. But Cara does her thing and there's enough imagination here to make it worth watching, even with the occasional eye roll. And there are some poignant moments, including a pretty good emotional performance by Rihanna as a shape shifting alien. The three little aliens that wander all over the station selling information were a nice touch also. So this is not a good movie- that would be a stretch- but I still, weirdly, think it's worth a watch if you're an SF fan.