Summer is upon us, and with the hotter weather comes summer superhero movies and trailers for all sorts of upcoming action-adventure fare. The trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, for example, seems like it could be a fun video game, with its bright, oversaturated CGI colors, and it definitely seems like a great summer flick for the kids. However, the film’s plot looks like the standard defeat-the-evil, save-the-world kind of schtick, and I’m not sure if there’s anything else about it to make it seem more interesting.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on Valérian and Laureline, an old French sci-fi comic about two time-traveling space agents. Though I haven’t read the series myself, it’s one of the most popular and well-known French series, and the movie was produced in France despite the film’s language being English. Director Luc Besson, of The Fifth Element and Lucy fame, seems to have put some effort into updating the themes of the comic for his non-time-traveling 2017 audience—the original Valérian was a rougher, macho archetype, whereas the original Laureline was the more empathetic and sensual one. That was a surprise to me: the main reason I liked the trailer was that Valerian and Laureline seemed like real partners from the very start, where Valerian said, “I only work with my partner. We’re a team.” Too often sci-fi/fantasy movies with one male and one female lead have one saving the other—even Raleigh ended up pushing Mako out of the jaeger to save her in Pacific Rim. Though we don’t know what will happen in the whole movie, the trailer never shows Laureline in a damseled position; she fights alongside Valerian in all their battles, is dressed sensibly, and the two of them have an easy banter with each other. I’m still 100% sure they will end up together, because that’s how these movies always go, but we could potentially get a relationship where the male and female partners are truly equal in narrative terms—a regrettable rarity even in 2017.
Unfortunately, there’s not much else about the trailer to recommend it to other people. There’s Rihanna as a sexy entertainer (*rolls eyes*), and a few other glimpses of characters of color, but as usual, the fantastical world is pretty much all white people and aliens. We haven’t seen any signs of LGBTQ+ or gender noncomforming people yet either, though it’s harder to tell that from a trailer. Sadly, there’s not even much plot to set it apart from other movies—Valerian and Laureline are assigned to stop a mysterious villain that threatens the City of a Thousand Planets, which is a place where species have gotten together to share knowledge and culture for centuries. There’s definitely potential for a deeper plot about the vengeful and illogical destruction of peace, knowledge, and intelligence, but the trailer is cut together so that Valerian seems like your regular run-of-the-mill summer action movie.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets opens July 21st in the States and July 26th in France! I haven’t quite decided if I’ll go see it yet, but if you will be, let me know in the comments!