Like the auteur responsible for making it, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a unique and even personal movie. Independently funded by director Luc Besson, cast with an incredibly diverse menagerie of actors (Rutger Hauer, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Herbie Hancock, Rihanna) and just as polarizing as Besson’s The Fifth Element — its distant sci-fi predecessor — Valerian is definitely one of a kind.
Fan and critical opinion appears to be almost perfectly split on Valerian, so if you’re among the half who found it tedious, unhinged, unevenly paced, too in love with itself, or just plain confusing, Besson’s got a tip to help you get your head around it all: The second time’s the charm.
Speaking with Jack Giroux at /Film, the French director said Valerian, like The Fifth Element before it, is likely to sweeten with time, bestowing viewers with a lot of little epiphanies on repeat screenings.
“The second time is the best,” he said. “It’s really the best because the film is so much of shards. When you’re watching sci-fi today, driven 90 percent by Marvel and DC Comics, there’s feeling, there’s a pattern, there’s a thing, and then we get used to it.”
In other words, Valerian is nothing if not different from what Besson regards as standard sci-fi and fantasy fare — so taking in something different can be a little jarring the first time around.
“[S]ometimes, especially for a song, for an album, the first time you hear it you’re like … and then you hear it twice and [the] third time and after like a couple of times, yeah, you get the thing,” Besson explained. “I think Valerian, like The Fifth Element 20 years ago, it’s the same. There’s so much different things in the film, that you can’t embrace it in one sitting. It’s almost impossible. There is too much.”
Plenty of people missed Valerian the first time around, when it opened opposite the release of Dunkirk in July. It’s since become available on Amazon and iTunes, as well as on Blu-ray — so time will tell if, like The Fifth Element, it ends up enjoying an indefinite shelf life.
If you’ve seen Valerian a first time, are you more likely to warn newcomers away? Or have you already taken Besson’s advice and jumped back in?