I really wanted to like this movie – I have been a long-time fan and reader of the French (well, really, Belgian) comic since the 1970s, and felt that Besson was the perfect pick to bring it to the screen, after he did so well with Fifth Element.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
Essentially Luc Besson tried to create a movie to appeal to American audiences, while not understanding American audiences at all, and sacrificing the French source material – in doing so he has lost both American audiences and his native French audience.
Valerian has nearly nothing in common with the original French comic book (which their marketing calls a ‘graphic novel’), save the names of the characters and the look of some of the aliens – essentially (along with The Fifth Element) they were both grifted from one and the same ‘Valerian’ book (“Les Cercles du Pouvoir” / “The Circles of Power”), leading me to believe that Besson pulled a JJ Abrahms — he saw a couple of cool visuals, and wanted to make a movie featuring those, while not caring one iota about plot or story.
The difference is that The Fifth Element had an actual storyline, and great performances by actors that could act, along with some excellent directing and editing.
Valerian lacked all of that – including suffering from a serious case of miscasting. I doubt Besson has even ever read any of the other Valerian stories. It doesn’t appear that way.
Fifth Element stands as his one, best realized French comic book movie. At least Valerian won’t get a sequel. Maybe a reboot, by Michel Hazanavicius.