Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: This city is pretty to look at but that's about it
The film is a classic case of fitting too much into a limited space
Based on the popular French science fiction comic book series, Valérian and Laureline (1967 – 2010), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets pays tribute to the iconic Star Wars more than any other notable set of fantasy/sci-fi films dealing with an alternate universe. While Besson’s adaptation does derive inspiration from a variety of sources (including Star Trek and Avatar), it is perhaps George Lucas he had foremost in mind while creating the setting for the project. Valerian scores top marks in the department of visuals; no one can fault the filmmaker’s vision and effort in putting it all together. However, the plot, the length, and the acting, for the most part, leave much to be desired. The sarcastic back-and-forth between Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) is borderline endearing towards the beginning, but gets all too tedious and forced as the story jumps from place to place without warning.
Major Valerian is a successful and cocky space Govt. agent, who some might describe as having a God-complex when it comes to missions. Sergeant Laureline is equally arrogant, and often flouts Valerian’s authority in order for him to see reason. While we get the whole power-banter situation the director envisioned for the leads, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne are neither proficient nor equipped to pull off such a thing with ease. Even as the plot desperately attempts to put away the whole ‘damsel in distress’ problem for Laureline, Valerian finally steps in to save the day (very disappointing and unnecessary, if you ask me). If I were to compare both the cocksure characters at the helm, I must say that Laureline comes off as the superior of the two (though the film doesn’t quite want you to see that).
Director – Luc Besson
Cast – Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer
Rating – 3/5
Story-wise, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, is a classic case of fitting too much into a limited space. Convoluted and confusing from the word go, the film introduces one relentless plotline (and backstory) after another through its 136-minute journey. It’s all good to have brilliant CGI and gorgeous species and landscapes coming together, but this isn’t an experimental narrative where you can just get lost in the imagery. If broken down, the entire project can be explained in not more than two lines; a group of power-hungry humans destroys an innocent alien race for ulterior motives; it is now up to Valerian and Laureline to search their conscience, and defend the last remaining survivors of the genocide after listening to their side of the story.
At two hours and sixteen minutes, the film is far too long to sit through without getting restless. When you’re contending with non-stop and complicated action/fantasy sequences flying at you from every conceivable corner, one-and-a-half hours would have fit the bill nicely. Valerian works well in presenting an alternate universe in all its splendour and glory. Each frame is as technically brilliant and beautiful as the next. It is one of those sci-fi/fantasy projects that will cater specifically to admirers of the genre. As far as the rest go, Valerian might not cross over to the mainstream as easily as Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings.