Disclaimer: This post was originally published on May 24, 2017. However, the question and claim still stands based on the film's weak marketing.
Earlier this morning, STX Entertainment released a brand new trailer for Luc Besson’s upcoming science fiction epic, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Not only was this a new trailer, but it was the “final” trailer, which is especially troubling for a film I think is having a difficult time tapping into the mainstream. Given that we have another two months until the film hits, and what seems to be zero traction with many in the public eye, you’d think they’d save up their marketing ammunition until after Spider-Man: Homecoming, which hits theaters July 7, two weeks before Valerian.
I know it’s too early to call, and who knows, this could come back to bite me in the ass, but I have the sneaking suspicion that Valerian may very well be the next John Carter.
Don’t get me wrong, this could very well be another hit sci-fi classic that we’ll love for years to come, and by no means am I saying the movie is going to suck. On the contrary, as a fan of Luc Besson’s, and a fan of the spectacle he loves bringing to the medium, I’m very much looking forward to the film.
The problem lies in the marketing, and ironically enough, in the spectacle he's bringing to the table with this film.
All the footage we’ve seen so far has a great focus on said spectacle. There are long pans over the alien landscapes. Footage of our heroes plowing through walls, jumping from high places, and being all-around badasses. With its cast of good-looking leads, high-octane action, and heavy emphasis on the otherworldly terrain, you’d think this could be a film that’s on track to make a box office killing. The only problem is that approach doesn’t work so much these days.
We live in an age of blockbusters. Every other week, we get a film that was put together on an ungodly $150 million-plus budget, and every one offers spectacle on some level. So inundated have fans become with CG that it no longer provides the thrills as it once did. So you can throw beautiful visuals all you want, but if the audience doesn't connect on an emotional level, then you're wasting your time.
With all the emphasis being pushed onto the spectacle aspect of the film, we’ve had little time to get to know our leads, Valerian and Laureline. They’re agents who set out on a mission to save the galaxy, but apart from that…there’s little else we know. We don't know their personalities. We don't know their goals. Hell, we don't really even understand their relationship with one another. In short, audiences have nothing tangible to cling onto. Yes, it all looks pretty, but at the end of the day, a lot of these visuals aren’t engaging without any real context. Without being given a reason to care, audiences are less likely to…you know…care.
For tips on how to do this right, we need look no further than Guardians of the Galaxy. From the very first trailer, we weren’t just being sold a high sci-fi spectacle. No, we were being sold on a unique tone, and a group of funny, likable characters. Audiences can cling onto funny and likable, because it at least gives us some idea of Marvel Studios followed the film up with Vol. 2, whose marketing repeated a lot of those strengths — keeping it character-focused. Yes, there was spectacle, but the brunt of the marketing always fell back onto the characters.
It’s because of that main failing in the Valerian marketing that I think the film is doomed to fail. When all said and done, once the trailer ends, audiences are left with little reason to care, and little reason to remember this movie coming in July.
What do you think of the new trailer for Valerian? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the upcoming sci-fi? Let us know your thoughts down below!