When "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" came out on Blu-ray and DVD, many wondered whether it would fare better than it did in the box office. Its director, Luc Besson, was the directorial genius behind the movie "The Fifth Element," and the similarities between the two were quite evident. As in "The Fifth Element," we see a character free-fall through busy traffic, an aircraft-type vehicle flying through the futuristic cityscape and a traitorous human who desires to destroy a planet. Despite the 20-year difference between the movies, we were introduced to strong female characters, heroes that want to just follow the rules – but the plot just won't have it – and intense special effects.
The difference between "The Fifth Element" and "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" is the "root" factor. As Leeloo and Korben travel across the galaxy to save planet earth, we rooted for their success because there was no straying from the concept of the story; we felt the time ticking as the ball of evil made its way toward Earth and we understood the imminent danger. But as Valerian and Laureline work on their journey to save a planet no one really knows about, the story is often found straying from its path, and there is no real sense of impending danger.
It was obvious to see that Luc Besson wanted to explore the digital special effects realm that George Lucas so enjoyed when he produced episodes 1-3 of "Star Wars." The effects created by Luc Besson were a lot more involved than Lucas'. The problem Lucas had was creating three original movies that people loved and not holding to that standard of innovation. Besson had the strength that Valerian was not much different than his previous science fiction movie "The Fifth Element" and it was a much better correlation of works than that of Lucas. With that said, there is still the problem of too much of a reliance on special effects. Was it really necessary for us to see all the worlds that were involved in Alpha City? How much could have been taken away to tighten the storyline and push audience viewers to embrace the "root factor?"
I say if you like a movie with great special effects and need something just to have a good laugh because of all the cameo appearances and side stories, than watch "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets." Just don't expect the movie to be the pulse-pounding, edge-of-your-seat thrill-ride that you experienced with "The Fifth Element." I personally would have loved to see the concept of Valerian continually pushing for Laureline to love him and marry him in order to create a more substantial story. I wanted more action, not mushy romance. I felt that as Valerian pushed for the love, it took away from the strong female character that Laureline was supposed to be. In effect, it took away from the tension and urgency of the movie that I found lacking.