The ship's computer wakens them from cryo-sleep, and they find themselves in a nightmare situation. The ship has been going off-course for ten months, because the two crew members who were on duty went crazy and killed each other. It turns out that they got infected by an alien virus. Before they died they boobytrapped the ship. The AI was reprogrammed by the corrupt MegaCorp that owns the ship, who would rather claim the insurance money than try to save the crew. There is less than ten hours worth of power for life support.
Luckily, Alan Dale ( Lost ) is on a research vessel within a few light minutes travel. The rescue ship might arrive within ten hours, but that is slightly too late to save everyone.
The science is relatively well done in this movie. No film has ever been 100%, but for a low-budget effort they certainly did their best. We may not have alien microbes, cryosleep or artificial intelligence computers in real life, but things like the time delays for communications across interplanetary distances are taken into account. A distance that takes nine minutes for light (or radio waves) to travel takes a nine MONTHS for a starship to travel. The writer certainly did a decent job.
Ex-convict Matt Damon ( Dogma ) tries to straighten out his life so he can be with Alice Braga . But he gets screwed over by his boss, the suit-wearing William Fichtner ( Lone Ranger ). Damon tries to even the score by pulling a Johnny Mnemonic style brain-heist.
The story starts in the run-up to the first manned mission to Mars. As the astronauts are shot off into orbit, we are given insight into the characters by means of TV broadcasts of interviews with them. Kavan Smith ( Stargate Atlantis ) is a Russian, while Michael Shanks ( Stargate SG-1 ) is an architect.
This is not Apollo 13 - they do not have one big incident, but lots of little ones.
Russia is at war with its neighbour, the former soviet republic of Tajikistan. However, the USA has not put an embargo on the warlike Russians. Quite the opposite, they have invited three Russian astronauts to NASA so they can get a lift on space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station.
The ISS has a very spacious interior, and comes equipped with full Earth-type gravity. Unfortunately it is also easy to hijack. The Russians did not do a proper background check on their astronauts. Federov (Frank Zagarino - ) and the others were born in Tajikistan. Of course, Federov already had a top security clearance because he designed the Russians' orbital weapons system. Now he is in command of the space station he can activate the system.
Nobody in an American audience cares about Russian cities, so the hijackers threaten to destroy an American city instead unless the Russian military withdraws from Tajikistan. The US government sends a rescue mission, including disgraced Space Shuttle pilot JJ (Daniel Baldwin - ).
Our heroes have an important job to do. They indulge in some derring-do in order to save a space probe. Much like the scoop probe in Andromeda Strain , it has collected a sample of microscopic alien life. Also like that film, the alien life grows and behaves in an unexpected manner.
As more serious science fiction movies of recent years ( Gravity, The Martian ) have already proven, the idea of an accident in space is scary in and of itself. This film could have been just as good, if not actually better, without the presence of a CGI space-octopus killing people off.
The second act hots up when, driven insane by the loneliness, he decides to defrost his fellow passenger Jennifer Lawrence . She gets first billing and a third more money than Pratt, but she is a bigger star so the studio must have thought she was worth it. Not only is the advertising somewhat deceptive, since she is basically a hanger-on in someone else's story, but Pratt's character deceives her and pretends that her awakening was also an accident.
The climactic third act manages to neatly tie everything up. A little bit too neatly, it turns out. There is nothing about the story that is logical, and nothing about the telling of it that is challenging or original. The characters spend months wandering around a starship that is slowly falling apart, and yet they never wonder why the systems are failing.
Humans are a racial minority, despised by the alien cultures that they live alongside. The young hero is given his call to action by a couple of other archetypes - a hot wrench wench love interest and a Han Solo type character. They, along with some comedy-relief aliens, jet around the galaxy trying to find the secret last hope of mankind.
The main star of the story is Cara Delevigne , so you would expect her to be the title character. In fact, she is just the sidekick to Valerian (Dane Dehaan - A Cure For Wellness ) who is more experienced if less well-known. One suspects that this is an effort to ensure the actors get equal pay. All it really does is illustrate the fact that a female actor's career usually ends in her mid-thirties, but a male actor's career is only beginning at that age.
The protagonists are a pair of tweenagers who work as interstellar secret agents. They look far too young for the job, compared with The Fifth Element which had Bruce Willis as the male lead. The token adult in this endeavour, Clive Owen ( Shoot 'Em Up ), is delegated to a supporting role that is virtually a cameo. And speaking of cameos, Rihanna has an eye-catching couple of minutes and virtually steals the show.
Valerian must, on both moral and political grounds, avoid any distasteful incidents involving alien species. After all, he is a law enforcement officer and is not above the law himself. However, when it is time for an action scene he gleefully slaughters as many aliens as he can. Later on, he hypocritically gets judgemental when it is discovered that the military created some collateral damage in a war many decades ago. This is a man who does not blink when all the redshirts helping him get wiped out or eaten.
Rico's new love interest is a female Space Navy Captain ( Joelene Blalock ).
The interstellar war between humans and bugs has gone on for decades. Carl Jenkins (formerly played by Neil Patrick Harris) is now Minister of Paranormal Warfare. He commandeers a ship from Captain Carmen Ibanez (fomerly Denise Richards ). She complains to her ex-lover, General Johnny Rico (formerly Casper Van Dien), who gives her a new ship and a team of Mobile Infantry for the pursuit.
The grunts get to hang out together and socialise, so we can work out which one is associated with which archetype. One of the females is an exhibitionist, so we get to see as much of her as we did of Dina Meyer in the original.
When the team board the missing ship, they use a motion sensor reminiscent of Aliens . In fact, the whole sequence is awfully familiar. Ironic, since one of Cameron's main influences for his movie was Heinlein's novel. As the story progresses, this becomes what Alien 3 should have been ... This Time It's Earth!
The aliens plan to invade Earth. The humans do not have much in the way of defences. Their space station lacks sufficient weapons to shoot down incoming hostiles, although it does have a battery of ICBMs pointed straight down at their own homeworld. Rico is given thirty minutes to suit up on the space station and then drop into the combat zone and defeat the alien Queen before his superiors will nuke the site from orbit. In real life, the drop from orbit would take more time than that. However, what we get is a third act that consists of a series of action scenes that last virtually half an hour, but it is not actually a real-time movie.