VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS:
DAZZLING AND LEADS TO CAMPY DUMB FUN, BUT MOSTLY FORGETTABLE!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: ** ½ out of 4
Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, Lucy) returns to his campy sci-fi roots that helped make The Fifth Element a cult classic with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, based on the Valerian and Laureline comic book series by Pierre Christin. I have never read the comic it was based on but when you really think about it this is a sci-fi movie based on a comic that I’m sure not very many people have heard of and it’s coming out during a summer where Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man: Homecoming are the major releases in the comic book movie genre…doesn’t quite shock me that it’s not performing well.
Not to say it’s horrible but it is undeniably stupid with a really campy tone, visual eye candy everywhere, and corny dialogue and silly moments all throughout the film. Imagine The Fifth Element except even dumber and minus the memorable characters, that’s pretty much this movie and chances are you’ll forget about it a few hours later.
Set in the 28th century the film follows Valerian (Dane DeHaan-Chronicle, Lincoln, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne-Anna Karenina, Paper Towns, Suicide Squad) who are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories of the universe. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense the two of them embark on a mission to Alpha, The City of a Thousand Planets where species from all over the universe live together for centuries to share knowledge.
However, there is a dark force at the center of Alpha which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify a menace responsible for causing an intergalactic war and safeguard not just Alpha but the entire universe.
The film also stars Clive Owen (Sin City, Shoot ‘Em Up, The International) as Arun Filitt, Rihanna (Bring it On: All or Nothing, Battleship, Home) as the voice of Bubble, Ethan Hawke (Before Sunset/Midnight, The Purge, Boyhood) as Jolly the Pimp, Herbie Hancock (Round Midnight, Miles Ahead, River of Gold) as Defence Minister, Kris Wu (Mr. Six, The Mermaid, XXX: Return of Xander Cage) as Captain Neza, John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, Transformers 4 and 5, 10 Cloverfield Lane) as the voice of Igon Siruss, and Sam Spruell (K-19: The Widowmaker, Defiance, The Hurt Locker) as General Okto Bar.
Overall, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets delivers exactly what it advertises, a campy, dumb sci-fi adventure that is sure to please sci-fi geeks and people looking for something stupid to make fun of because this movie is filled with weird moments worthy of unintentional laughter. However, the film doesn’t offer much new to the genre aside from some imaginative worlds and alien designs.
I will say the visuals for the most part is spectacular and fueled on imagination, but there are times where the effects are on par with a Star Wars prequel and they come off as looking fake and unconvincing that they’re really there. If this movie came out in the late 90s or early 2000s those dated effects may have looked more impressive at first but after seeing War for the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 this summer they look about as impressive as PlayStation 2 game graphics, not a good sign for a 2010s movie outside of laughing at how bad some of the effects are.
Something I could not get into is the chemistry between the two main characters, specifically DeHaan as Valerian. I’ve seen Dane DeHaan in good movies before and even enjoyed his eerie Harry Osborn portrayal in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 but I found his character to be incredibly obnoxious and unlikable and all he does is act like a smart-ass and bicker with Delevingne’s character all throughout the movie, it’s like a sci-fi version of The Legend of Zelda cartoon or Mad About You, not once did I care whether or not they would end up together by the end of the film and your either laughing unintentionally or sitting there bored and waiting for the next action sequence.
Also, the movie really fails at comedy, the unintentional stuff is funny but when it tries to be funny it’s pretty painful. The jokes and humor fall flat and feel very forced in their execution and some of them are bad enough to make you cringe *ahem* Taken reference.
Plot wise Valerian is pretty bad and is pretty much a rehash of much better sci-fi films minus the memorable characters. Films like Star Wars, The Fifth Element, Guardians of the Galaxy, you name it. Even some of the creatures look like they were ripped off from other movies like an obese alien creature who’s always eating and nearly tries to sacrifice Laureline looks like a Jabba the Hutt knockoff and another race of aliens look like bald, albino Avatars.
So yeah, it’s stupid but it does have fun with its stupidity and hopefully it should satisfy you for one viewing. I can’t say it’ll satisfy everyone, it’s not even close to being a good movie but it’s at least a fun dumb movie you can turn your brain off to, get high with your friends, and laugh away…and then forget about it when it’s over, if this is your cup of tea then game on, if not don’t even consider buying a ticket for it, see Dunkirk instead.