Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Mini Review

“Welcome to Alpha, the city of a thousand planets, where for hundreds of years every species has shared their knowledge and their intelligence with each other. It’s paradise.”

Directed by: Luc Besson

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna

Synopsis: Highly-skilled operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) team up to defend the diverse, futuristic city of Alpha and a mysterious, forgotten race from an unknown threat.

Dane DeHaan as Major Valerian and Cara Delevingne as Sergeant Laureline.

Well, it certainly pretty stunning from a visual standpoint. With its impressively realised and vastly sprawling virtual reality marketplace, its plethora of varied and inventive aliens, and the vibrant City of a Thousand Planets itself, Valerian has plenty to ogle at. As a showcase for VFX, it’s right up there with the year’s best, with director Luc Besson providing a reminder of just why he’s referred to as a “visionary”. He’s firmly in the territory of his 1997 film The Fifth Element here, and if anything Valerian is even more eclectic.

Whilst the wide-ranging, detailed world building is effective, the characters which fill the movie’s universe and the tales that they tell are less so. The leads (Dane DeHaan’s Valerian and Cara Delevingne’s Laureline) are largely forgettable, with the former teetering on irritating. The “unknown” villain is remarkably transparent. And the script lacks drive and purpose, leaving a thinly spread plot stretched out into a series of hit and miss set pieces. When, as Valerian kicks into its final act, it decides to take an extended interlude of Rihanna prancing around for several minutes, you have to question what it’s actually all been about. After the near two and a half hour runtime, I still wasn’t really sure, and I don’t think that the film was either.

Rating (out of 5):

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