‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ is the comic book adaptation of the same name by Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin. It tells the story of a dark force that threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.
If you’re familiar with any of French director Luc Besson’s work, ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ holds a very similarly nostalgic style to that of ‘The Fifth Element.’ In saying this, however, despite its visual and stylistic similarities, ‘Valerian’ hardly lives up to it. Even with the sarcastic humour played adequately enough by English model-turned-actress Cara Delevigne (who’s still yet to prove that she can act) and the cameo from Rihanna, who wasn’t as painful as you might expect, the visuals are overstuffed to the max.
Besson, who’s known for his usual impeccable casting especially with the find in Natalie Portman with ‘Leon the Professional,’ was only to be doubted with this film. Dane Dehaan’s Valerian seemed unsuited to his personality as with Delevinge’s Laureline. In a film with such lush eye candy, it’s a shame that their relationship wasn’t as exciting and interesting. The film begs you to care about them but really, their characteristics were eye roll worthy at things we have sen before. There was nothing to love about them and occasionally makes you question how or why Laureline would fall for someone like Valerian.
It’s not a film that can dazzle us with it’s visuals, including more than 2,500 shots of visual effects, visuals and expect us to ignore the rather simplistic plot. The rich vividness of the film only brings to light the lifelessness of those leading us through the story. Valerian’s is one we’ve seen before and can only remind us of ‘Star Wars” Han Solo. Though the first half of the film was something that would be truly of interest, it soon fell flat into something that was more formulaic and proved to be far less exciting than it’s first half conceived it to be.
If it’s anything that the film got right, it was the visuals, but it’s not the only thing that a film can ride on. There are so many other elements that make a good film great and it’s a shame that ‘Valerian’ missed out on that. The story was undeniably predictable, making you say “well, duh,” though it did leave you to just be able to sit back and enjoy the visuals for what they were. It does make you want to know more about the world and head back to the original source material to read more into it.
Overall, the film wasn’t amazing but it delivers for what it is and much more enjoyable than the superhero nonsense that has plagued the marketplace.