It might seem as if I did not like science fiction movies very much, for all my complaints about them. But I do, I swear! Every time I go to the movie theater to watch a sci-fi flick, I'm eagerly looking forward to being both entertained and mentally stimulated, or at least one of these. Eye-candy is a given here in the 21st century. These days special effects are such a highly developed industry that even the most insipid, senseless, mind-bogglingly bad movie which causes the audience squirm with acute embarrassment at least manages to look good. And it's the Valerian movie I'm talking about in the previous sentence, btw.

Reading Valerian BD has been a formative childhood experience for me, and I can't help but take it as a personal insult how Besson has mangled the characters and stories created by Mezieres and Christin. But even if it wasn't, if I had heard the word Valerian for the first time just minutes prior to entering the theater today, the movie would still have been lousy. Characters don't have internal coherence – or at least Laureline does not. Valerian is consistently annoying and moronic. Dialogue is either unrelieved infodump or reprocessed, flavorless lines from a hundred mediocre action movies. Music is generic, and laid on too thick. Action-side of the plot is below average, but what little sense it might have is swamped by the sheer idiocy of the emotional plot. (There be spoilers, but it's not as if the plot was that important anyway).

Here's the emotional plot: Valerian likes to bed women. Now he has set his sights on his work partner Laureline and pesters her endlessly. But Laureline is not like that, no no noo. She's different from all those other, easy women. She does not want to be dumped as soon as she has given her precious to a man. This inspires Valerian to ask her to marry him, completely out of the blue. They do not have any sort of romantic relationship at this point. Laureline evades the question.
They discover that their superiors have done a terrible, immoral thing. Valerian and Laureline get a chance to set things right, but Valerian thinks they should leave the decision to legal system. Laureline wants to act immediately in the way she sees morally correct. Laureline gives a idiotic speech about the power of love and then promises to marry Valerian, if he agrees to co-operate with her. She essentially sacrifices herself for a greater cause, in a manner which reminds me of some cheesier 19th century romances (think of all the noble virgins who have agreed to marry someone they do not love to save another). Valerian gives her a ring and so the requirements of modesty are fulfilled. They kiss. Happy end.

Here's what I think has happened: Luc Besson has had two movie treatments on his work desk, one story about workplace sexual harassment in the 1910's and another for a colorful sci-fi blockbuster. The pages have gotten mixed together. The obsession with marriage is quite out of place in a movie set in 2100's or so, especially considering how the original comics from 1970's never mention this custom. Maybe Besson, married 4 times, is trying to work out his own marital issues on the big screen? I don't have any other explanation at hand. Rihanna's character giving some lame emotional advice to Valerian and then dying is another baffling point. (Her sexy dance was a nice sexy dance, but was too obviously there as fan service).

I'm going to skip my lesser complaints and go to the only pleasant surprise of the movie. Cara Delevigne was not at all bad. If her character had been closer to the real Laureline, and she had been given a red wig, I'm quite positive she could have done a good job.

If I'm given a few hundred thousand euros, the CGI files, someone charismatic and grown-up looking to play Valerian, and Delevigne, I'll give you at least an adequate Valerian movie. I could definitely write a better script than Besson, if I'm allowed to use Valerian comics as a source.

Final verdict:  Read the comics rather than go see the movie, but if you go see the movie to enjoy expertly animated exploding planets, pretty aliens and gorgeous sci-fi environments, try to find a version dubbed in a language you don't understand. Or better yet, put on your headphones and listen to your favorite movie soundtrack.