I’ll defend Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to the end of my days, which isn’t hard because nobody actually saw the movie to be able to criticize it.
The movie has some of the most inventive and visually interesting action sequences this side of Mad Max Fury Road, and the art direction is something else. Also, while everyone thinks Dane Dehaan was a poor choice for a leading man, that’s just because they wanted Valerian to be some generic Han Solo ripoff instead of accepting him for the skeevy scummy horndog he was meant to be. The second half is a lot quieter and maybe less interesting than the first half, but it’s got a fantastic not-actually-action-packed climax and a resolution that’s shockingly heartfelt as much as its political undertones are bitingly cynical.
But I’m not here to talk about the movie as a whole, except that oops I already did. I’m here to talk about the opening.
Uh, the first opening. Okay, this movie is real friggin’ weird in that it has THREE openings. There’s the first prologue, the second prologue, and then finally our intro to our protagonists Valerian and Laureline. This is something that should never, ever work in a movie, and yet it works super well here. The main reason it works is because these two prologue scenes are super great. Especially… the first one!
That’s what I’ll be showing you today.
Here’s the (first) intro to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in all its glory:
It’s essentially a standalone short film preceding the main events. No characters or plot from this scene show up in the rest of the movie; it’s just the origin of the titular city set to Space Oddity. But the visual storytelling here is just… Hot damn!
The emotions and wonder, the story displayed without a single line of dialogue until the end, the weird sincerity of it all–it wraps up into this lovely, lovely scene. It sets the tone for the rest of Valerian so well that it’s absolutely essential, even if it’s superfluous.
This is the magic of movies.