In the 28th century, the International Space Station has grown so large with planetary representatives, it has been separated from Earth’s orbit, and now hosts so many species it is called Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets.
Special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) work together to maintain order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to discover what lies within a new dark area that has popped up within the boundaries of Alpha.
And there lies the plot of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, directed by Luc Besson, best known for 1997’s cult film The Fifth Element. It is based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline.
I loved The Fifth Element, so this morning I made the decision to see Valerian in 3D. I’m glad that I did, because the visuals of this film are so well done.
Besson has created a visually stimulating universe and to me, it rivals Avatar for the immersion factor. You really feel like you’re in these new worlds, especially Mül.
The story however, is quite uneven. I was thrown off by the way the script tried to shoehorn a romance between Valerian and Laureline into the action. Besides the fact that I didn’t really feel a strong chemistry between the lead actors DeHaan and Delevigne, it seems like the romance existed just to give them a reason to trade barbs and quips….something that could’ve been accomplished without the romantic aspect.
It was also quite obvious from the first time you see him who the villian of the story is. The character is written very one dimensionally, and all his motives and actions seemed telegraphed.
The writing isn’t all bad, though. The storyline of the people of Mül, known as Pearls, is well done, and brings humor to the film with the reveal of the “converters” that power their planet. And the alternate universe shopping bazaar was fun to watch, especially when the visuals flickered between it and the main universe.
Rihanna and Ethan Hawke also have fun characters in the film. As Bubbles, Rihanna gets to be funny and sexy, and lends a bit of gravitas to the story. And as her eccentric pimp, Hawkes is a hoot chewing up his dialogue.
I also appreciate that Laureline isn’t a damsel in distress. She saves Valerian as much as he saves her. I just wish she didn’t have to do it in skimpy clothing all the time. Even her fighting suit has exaggerated breast plates in a different color to emphasize she has breasts.
So is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets worth seeing in the theaters?
I felt the visuals were so amazing they more than made up for the unbalanced story. But I love sci-fi movies and appreciate special effects that are well done. Plus the story was good, just not great.
If you hate big visual spectacles or Besson’s The Fifth Element, you probably won’t like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
But if you want to experience this movie right, you need to see it on a big screen in the theaters …and splurge on the 3D. It’s worth it.
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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Rating: 7 out of 10 stars
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Rutger Hauer
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