Despite Biggest Budget for an Indie Film, Box Office Results Disappoint


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, released in 2017, sought to become the next big blockbuster despite being the most expensive independent movie ever made. Although it possesses the grandeur and polish of a major studio production, it fell short of becoming the commercial success it aimed for and failed to amass the anticipated following. Nevertheless, it stands as an extraordinary achievement in showcasing what a group of artists can accomplish outside the traditional Hollywood framework, deserving recognition for its astonishing creative endeavors alone.

Directed by Luc Besson, the film is a space opera based on the revered French comics, Valérian and Laureline. It envisions Alpha, a vast metropolis housing a myriad of species from diverse planets, and follows the journey of Valerian and Laureline (played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne) as they race to protect their home from an impending enigmatic threat. Despite its stunning visuals, imaginative worlds, and commendable action sequences, Valerian’s merits mostly lie in its technical prowess.

However, despite its technical achievements, the film ends up feeling more derivative than innovative. While the concept of Alpha and its diverse inhabitants is fascinating, the plot falls into familiar tropes seen in numerous other space operas. The chemistry between the lead characters, portrayed by DeHaan and Delevingne, lacks charm and depth, contributing to the film’s overall blandness.


Financially, the movie’s box office earnings might suggest success, grossing around $225,874,228 worldwide. However, considering its whopping production budget of $177,200,000, not including marketing expenses, the film appears to be in the red. If accounting for typical marketing costs, the total expenditure might have reached approximately $354,400,000, leaving the filmmakers at a significant financial loss of approximately $128,525,772.

So, what made Valerian so expensive? Its massive budget largely went into crafting an entire science fiction universe from scratch, featuring elaborate CGI-rendered worlds, creatures, and action sequences. The inclusion of a star-studded cast, including Ethan Hawke, John Goodman, Clive Owen, and even Rihanna, further contributed to the high costs. The involvement of acclaimed composer Alexandre Desplat added to the financial investment.

Despite its commercial setback, Valerian showcases Luc Besson’s distinct artistic vision and exemplifies the creative freedom attainable outside the conventional studio landscape. While it may have incurred substantial financial losses, its bold endeavor stands as proof that independent films need not be modest productions. Valerian’s vast ambitions demonstrate the potential for artists to bring forth unique visions, regardless of box office success, emphasizing the value of artistic freedom in filmmaking.

Available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S., Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets remains a testament to audacious creativity and the possibilities achievable in independent filmmaking.