Watching Valerian and the Movie with the Ridiculously Long Harry Potter–esque Title was a strange experience. I can’t say I liked it overall.
I think what grated most was the absurd idealization of the beautiful, innocent, peaceful aliens. They’re harder to relate to than gods or robots! In religions across the world, supernatural beings (with the notable exception of Cthulhu) always have some human behavioral characteristics that help us understand, admire, and/or emulate them. In Asimov’s science fiction stories about robots, even the robots are more complicated (and thus more interesting) than these aliens, because even with only a scant handful of unbreakable rules to follow, conflict is inevitable.
Yes, the innocents are aliens, so we could imagine that they have a society infinitely freer of conflict than any we’ve ever come across, but there’s really no point putting them in a human story if they are impossible to identify with. Nevertheless, not only are they in this story, they are the story. If it’s not possible to care about them, then why would anybody want to watch this movie?
Well, Valerian contains a lot of surprising, inventive, and beautiful, uh, stuff. As this guardian review puts it:
Valerian has the courage of its fearsome convictions, and if you’re willing to overlook things like acting, plot, characterization, dialogue, character arcs, pacing, structure and leads, as many science fiction die-hards are willing to do, then Valerian is a nifty spectacle that excels as eye-candy even if it comes up short in every other respect.
In other words, maybe it’s cult-classic material, albeit not for my particular kind of cult.
More opinions below, with SPOILERS.