“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” was a flop, but it will forever change sci-fi movies for the better.
Why? We will tell you.
So that was 20 years, why so long? Until “Avatar” came out that he always believed it was impossible because of the world building, well in a way he wasn’t wrong, it wasn’t impossible, but it cost over 180 million dollars becoming the most expensive non-American and independent film ever made.
And you can see where every dollar was spent, the movie looks fantastic, its one of the most original world building that you will ever see, and it as so much potential for more stories to be told.
So they had someone that loved the original material, they had the money, and it looked great so what failed?
The script was poorly written and maybe was lost in translation from the original source material, but all of it feels awkward.
The other thing is just the ridiculous plot that is not on par with the fantastic world created around it, all the story of the animal that can generate pearls with unlimited energy out of his butt is just lame.
Luc Besson is excellent at creating characters, that is one of his best talents, so what happens here? Did it become too big and he couldn’t control it?
We all can assume many things but there was a red flag there since day one, the budget, the movie did 225 million dollars worldwide, but with the price tag of 180 million it just makes it hard for an original work to succeed.
But going back to the original question, why will this be important for the future of sci-fi?
First, it will make movies look at their price tags; movies today are overinflated.
If we look at movies like “alien” that cost 11 million to make and even with inflation we are talking something like 40 million dollars, “District 9” cost 30 million dollars, so maybe there are ways of telling smaller stories and grow from there.
Second, how a movie looks help but that is not everything, there are very few movies that succeed on how they look alone, maybe “Avatar” is the exception, it was not the best script or story but how it looked made everyone curious.
Not anymore, audiences are opening their eyes, big blockbusters are opening all the time now, “Transformers” are flopping, “Justice League” flopped and big properties like “Aliens” and “Terminator” are not enough to make people go to the cinema.
“Arrival”, “Looper”, and “Ex Machina” are great examples of movies that put it all on the story and the characters, and that made all the difference.
The way people found Valerian impressive but still flopped will make filmmakers more aware of that.
Third, it will bring Luc Besson back to what he does better, character stories.
After this movie his company is most likely to be acquired by Netflix, this will mean two things; Netflix movies can get better and oh my god they need all the help they can get and Besson will have a huge platform to share is vision in a more contained way.
And finally it also opens our eyes that there are no sure things, you can get all your ducks in a row, and even have a great movie and it can still fail.
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is one of my favorite Star Wars movies (see our “Last Jedi” review here), still many fans didn’t like it, and it was not the financial success we all would expect from a Star Wars movie, so this makes everyone work harder and focus on what is important.
But the lessons will not be only about how to make the movie, one of the reasons Valerian also Flopped was the marketing, more and more this makes all the difference.
Movies like “Deadpool” showed us that you need to talk to your audience, don’t try and talk to everyone, just the right ones, the ones that will sell your movie.
Inside the Sci-fi community, I see a lot of love for valerian so that is how they should have sold it, target the people that will actually want to watch it and not like the next Avatar and shoot everywhere, Avatar was the exception, not the rule.
I hope James Cameron looked at this very carefully, because I for one am worried, 4 more Avatar movies?
Hope he is working all these years on the story for that because if we just have the same story over, and over again it will flop.
So in conclusion, Valerian is not a bad movie, but could have been so much more, looks impressive but is lacking the juice to make it stand out.
Still, make sure you watch it because I believe it came to help us have better Sci-fi in the future.