Analyzing the Underperformance of "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" at the Box Office

11 June 2023
"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," directed by Frechmen and superbly talented director Luc Besson and released in 2017, was one of the most expensive independent films ever made, with a reported budget of around $180 million.

Despite its grand scale and visually stunning world-building, the film failed to perform as expected at the box office, grossing approximately $225 million worldwide. In this discussion, we will explore some key factors that may have contributed to its underperformance.

Valérian and Laureline

Lack of Brand Recognition:

"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" was based on the French comic book series "Valérian and Laureline," which was relatively unknown to a global audience. Unlike other successful science fiction franchises like "Star Wars" or "Marvel," "Valerian" did not have a dedicated fan base or widespread recognition. The lack of familiarity with the source material made it challenging to generate significant pre-release buzz or attract a wider audience, resulting in limited box office returns.

Weak Marketing Campaign:

The marketing strategy employed for "Valerian" fell short in generating widespread interest and excitement. The trailers and promotional materials failed to effectively communicate the film's unique selling points and compelling narrative. The focus was primarily on visual spectacle, highlighting the stunning visual effects and imaginative world-building, without adequately conveying the story's emotional core. The marketing campaign struggled to position the film as a must-see event, failing to generate the necessary anticipation and audience engagement to drive box office success.

Subpar Screenplay and Character Development:

While "Valerian" boasted impressive visual effects and imaginative world-building, the film suffered from a weak screenplay. The narrative lacked cohesiveness, with pacing issues and subplots that distracted from the main story. The plot's complexity, combined with underdeveloped character arcs, hindered audience engagement. The lead characters, Valerian and Laureline, lacked depth and failed to establish a strong connection with the audience. Without relatable and compelling protagonists, the film struggled to create emotional investment, ultimately impacting its box office performance.

Maybe they were just not as sexy as Princess Leia?

Competition from Established Franchises:

The release of "Valerian" coincided with the dominance of well-established franchises, such as "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and "War for the Planet of the Apes." These franchises had built-in fan bases and held a significant portion of the audience's attention and interest. As a result, "Valerian" faced stiff competition, making it challenging to attract moviegoers who were already invested in these established franchises. The presence of these popular films diverted attention away from "Valerian," leading to reduced box office returns.

Mixed Critical Reception:

Critical reception can significantly impact a film's box office performance. Unfortunately, "Valerian" received mixed reviews from critics. While some praised the film's visuals and ambition, others criticized its narrative shortcomings and lack of emotional depth. The varying opinions created uncertainty and hesitation among potential moviegoers, as they were unsure whether the film would meet their expectations. The mixed critical reception, coupled with the film's shortcomings, diminished its appeal and resulted in lower box office numbers.


"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" faced several hurdles that hindered its success at the box office. The film suffered from limited brand recognition, a weak marketing campaign that failed to effectively communicate its unique selling points, a subpar screenplay with pacing and narrative issues, weak character development, competition from established franchises with dedicated fan bases, and mixed critical reception. Despite its visually stunning world and ambitious scope, these factors combined to limit the film's appeal and resulted in underwhelming


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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