Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Movie Discussion
Valerian is an action movie, a love story, a political commentary, a creative, science-fiction wonder... It’s a lot of things, and it’s a lot of fun with some good messages underneath it all.
- The action movie / political statement:
Laureline and Valerian discover a few survivors of a race that was nearly wiped off the planet. When a war between two other races broke out near their planet, a leader decided that his people were worth protecting no matter who was killed in the process, even if it meant wiping out a planet and all its inhabitants. To cover their decisions, they erased any trace of information about the race. It was as if they had never existed. But they had. And a few survived. As they pointed out, “We are survivors, but we are also witnesses.” Therefore, they were liabilities and those responsible for their annihilation were trying to wipe out the last traces of their existence.
Laureline and Valerian run into some conflict over what to do about this. He’s a soldier and he follows orders. She’s more bound by her internal compass of right and wrong than by politics and orders. She wants to do right by these people and not only rescue them, but also return some of their artifacts—artifacts her government wanted to keep as they were quite valuable. Both of them have a high moral compass and want to do the right thing, but how they decide what is right varies. He’s bound his honor to follow orders to his superiors; she’s bound to the people.
It’s an illustration of what Jesus went through in his dealings with the Pharisees. He followed what was right according to God, not necessarily according to law. He followed the heart of the law, while they were caught up by the letter of it. He healed people on the Sabbath because it was right for those suffering, even though the religious were horrified that he should not strictly observe the day of rest. Jesus teaches us to obey the laws of the land, but He also cautions that the laws of the land are subject to the laws of God, who is a God of love. We are to honor authority always, and obey authority until such obedience comes into conflict God’s laws. In which case, obeying God trumps all. As Laureline points out, Love is “more powerful than anything else. It’s bigger than laws.”
- The love story:
Laureline is a really strong, positive character in this movie. Not only do we see her leading the moral compass politically, she also leads it relationally. Valerian wants to marry her. Clearly they have a connection, but, while she follows her heart in regards to right and wrong with obeying her orders, when it comes to romance she’s surprisingly logical. She doesn’t just follow her emotions—in a great way. She clearly communicates with him what she wants. She doesn’t play games. She explains why she won’t marry him. He has a “playlist” of the women he’s been with in the past. She wants “a man who will erase his playlist for me.” She values herself enough to not be one of the list of girls in his life. She won’t settle for less than being the only. She also doesn’t kid herself that she’ll be different for him. She challenges him on this. “Why do you lose interest as soon as you have a girl?” She doesn’t want that to be her story—that he loses interest in her the moment she’s his.
This may sound harsh, but while she’s extremely honest, she’s not unkind and she doesn’t shame. She doesn’t get angry, doesn’t retaliate or distance herself from him. They stay partners. She supports him, and even loves him well as a friend. She is everything a woman should be, and maintains her emotional boundaries while doing so. This is important, because it allows him to grow and mature. Had she just melted at his proposal, had she thought that that meant he’d be different with her, he wouldn’t have had to grow up in the ways he needed to to enter into marriage. If she’d shamed him, he’d never have found the courage to grow into the man he needed to become. She was the right kind of challenge and inspiration. And anyone who has ever loved someone who isn’t “ready” yet, and therefore walked away knows just how hard this is. It’s hard to respect yourself that much and wait. It’s hard to have faith it will be worth saying no. It’s hard not to get angry when the person you love is failing you, to wait on them to grow up in areas. It’s all very hard.
She’s willing to say no, willing to wait, and then, perhaps equally difficult, she’s willing to say yes. When she sees that he has grown, sees that he’s willing not only to “die for [her],” but also to “trust [her],” when she sees that he’s becoming humble and vulnerable, when she sees that he’s not only trying to impress her but also learning to yield to her...then she knows he is growing and becoming the kind of man she could marry. Then she gladly changes her mind and says yes. I love her for this! In so many respects she is a woman of dignity and strength and grace. She’s vulnerable, but not needy. Strong, but not calloused or harsh. Tender but not weak. Willing to follow the rules, but free thinking. Willing to break the rules without being rebellious. She sees the diamond in the rough, but is willing to wait for him to become the diamond, knowing that just because he has potential is no guarantee he’ll change. And yet, it’s her very resistance that provides the pressure and incentive he needs to become.
I’ve written about two very difficult topics in the movie, but really, it’s all about Laureline. The movie may be named “Valerian”, but she’s very much the center of the movie. She’s the reason he becomes great. She’s the reason the people are saved. It’s her great heart and her strong sense of worth that drive the story. And yet, that’s also part of what you have to love about her, she doesn’t mind if Valerian gets the press. She’s so confident in her worth she doesn’t have to assert it or have others validate it. She doesn’t need to have top billing; she happily lets him. It reminds me of that line in My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, where the mother says that, “A man may be the head, but a woman is the neck that turns the head.” (Not a direct quote, but close.)
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value. 1
2 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life....
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, ...
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy....
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue. – From Psalm 31
Questions for Discussion:
- How did Laureline follow in Jesus’ footsteps in her dealings with the people who had been wronged?
- What makes Laureline admirable?
- Why did Laureline turn down Valerian’s proposal? Why did she later accept? What changed?
- How did Laureline’s actions impact Valerian’s growth to maturity?
- How is Laureline like the ideal woman in Proverbs 31?
- Have you ever cared for someone that wasn’t “ready” yet? What did you do?
- Do you feel you have enough worth as a person to say no when love is offered to you (if it’s not right)?