Film Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Jordan Samuel Jordan Samuel
Expert Contributor
July 15th, 2017

Film Critic and Writer for ComiConverse.com, the Founder and co-host of the official Nerdcast Network Podcast

Price:
Balls-To-The-Wall Sci-Fi!

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On July 15, 2017
Last modified:July 15, 2017

Summary:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) totally isn't afraid to take risks with some fantastic visuals and intriguing world building. Luc Besson gives the audience another odd adventure which binds together masterclass designs and effects with balls-to-the-wall sci-fi elements! He is finally home with a great movie that harkens back to his strange roots.

Price:
Balls-To-The-Wall Sci-Fi!

Reviewed by:
Rating:

4
On July 15, 2017
Last modified:July 15, 2017

Summary:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) totally isn't afraid to take risks with some fantastic visuals and intriguing world building. Luc Besson gives the audience another odd adventure which binds together masterclass designs and effects with balls-to-the-wall sci-fi elements! He is finally home with a great movie that harkens back to his strange roots.

MORE NEWS FROM THE WEB

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) seem to be the wildcard for the summer, with the unknown property being pushed into an awkward position by competing in theaters during the busiest time of year. But does the space opera work in today’s film market? Find out as Jordan Samuel gives us the official review. 

Film Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are special operatives charged with keeping order throughout the human territories. On assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two undertake a mission to Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis where species from across the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence, and culture. At the center of Alpha is a mysterious dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe

Credit: STX Entertainment

Acclaimed director Luc Besson (Lucy) brought us The Fifth Element (1997), which mixed beautiful set designs with odd but great performances from both Bruce Willis (Die Hard) and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil) that transcended the generic sci-fi storytelling.

The Fifth Element (1997) is a misunderstood film, which even holds-up today in the current Hollywood climate, by being bold in various ways with the strong thematic elements; including focuses on gender and political corruption. The sci-fi cult classic brought fresh-air into a stale creative genre, vaulting Luc Besson into the top movie directors lists.

Story continues below

Since then, he has removed himself from the limelight with smaller projects, including the recent action film Lucy (2014), which failed to captivate what made Besson so special, but which made enough money for a sequel to be put into development.

This year, Luc Besson returns with a new sci-fi adventure, the big-budget adaptation of the French graphic novel Valerian and Laureline (1967), a series close this his heart and the main influence for his best work The Fifth Element (1997).

But does Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) work in today’s climate?  Let’s find out

Credit: STX Entertainment

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the weirdest and strangely entertaining piece of cinema in years, bringing together everything Luc Besson is known for in the Hollywood industry; odd performances with over the top effects. 'Eurotrash' is the only word to describe the picture, which adds another level of charm and personality, something hidden in the big budget Hollywood realm.

It’s a director-driven project, that is something rare in modern day Hollywood in that it does not rely on movie clichés and create its own tone. Besson's return to space epics isn’t his best (or as in your face) as it was the first time we saw him do it.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets showcases his love for the genre, with Besson building an impressive world, one which is created with some groundbreaking effects, but which lacks the depth seen in his previous science fiction.

Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) both have on-screen connections, which keep the pace moving. This comes even though their dialogue can be awkward and feels at odds with the wacky tone. At points, it all comes across as lazy writing, which is shameful, because the actors are doing their best with the material; limiting any worthwhile emotional sequences. The performances aren’t groundbreaking, but should have been respected, instead requiring the actors to force cringe-worthy dialogue.

Credit: STX Entertainment

Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets has a story, but the story is not the focus, instead the planets explored are where the film shines, as they flesh out the worlds with exotic creatures. Luc Besson follows the graphic novel as special operatives Valérian and Laureline are charged to keep order in human territory. The Minister of Defense gives the pair an assignment in the planet Alpha.

Story continues below

The metropolis is the center for all knowledge, intelligence and culture, it was established to keep the galaxy together. But a powerful menace threatens not only Alpha but the entire future of their universe. This sounds quite generic, but the needed charm elevates it from being a sad and done the storyline.

Luc Besson tries to change up the pace a little, with humor and beautiful action sequences, but the story just ends up being too simple for all of the complex imagery. Perhaps straying away from the exact source material would have been for the better.

Credit: STX Entertainment

Dane DeHaan plays titular Valerian, the space-and-time-traveling hero who travels around the globe with his strong and courageous personality. The scene is set in the capital of the Terran Galactic Empire in the 28th century. Valerian is notorious for arriving late to his assignments and very much acts as this universe's Han Solo figure mixed with Captain Kirk.

These elements are shown throughout the film’s runtime, in a production that could be compared to the recent Star Trek: Beyond (2016), with a mixture of famous sci-fi heroes added-in.

Dane DeHaan’s performance is decent, but doesn’t feel like the right introduction for an unknown character. Valerian ends-up being a generic one-dimensional cliché. He lacks the magnetism and needed gravitas to make this an iconic role in cinema.

I wouldn’t mind seeing him return in a potential sequel, because this could be a career-defining role over time for the young actor, if they can grow the character with the series.

 

Popular model Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad) is Laureline, a peasant girl from the 11th century France who joins Valérian in his time traveling quest. The character parallels are similar to Princess Lelia in the Star Wars franchise, as she isn’t scared to get her hands dirty: yet has such elegance and class.

Delevingne makes her second big budget appearance, providing one stellar performance which channels some of her known charismatic personality and sass.

She captures the elements which made the character so interesting in the comics; being both independent and efficacious, but not afraid to exploit her huge sex appeal to take advantage. The role is very well-written and is elevated due to some standout performances from Delevingne, who brings the goods in each sequence.

I want more of the character Laureline. Her over-the-top persona and fun attitude is totally enough for me to watch various other franchise stories in the universe.

Credit: STX Entertainment


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has some outstanding action, relying on beautiful battles, both in the air and underwater, which are unlike anything seen this summer movie season. Luc Besson knows how to direct these scenes: which are highly original with some of the most creative visuals in a longtime in an originality-starved genre. We recommend watching this on the biggest screen with 3D glasses and an eccentric audio system for maximum effect.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is not being afraid to take risks with some fantastic visuals and an intriguing world. Luc Besson gives the audience another odd adventure with masterclass designs, effects and balls-to-the-wall sci-fi. He is finally home with a great movie that harkens back to his strange roots.

Go see this one, because it deserves all the love this summer season for being a highly original and fun film.

 

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

  • 4

Balls-To-The-Wall Sci-Fi!

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) totally isn't afraid to take risks with some fantastic visuals and intriguing world building. Luc Besson gives the audience another odd adventure which binds together masterclass designs and effects with balls-to-the-wall sci-fi elements! He is finally home with a great movie that harkens back to his strange roots.

(Visited 1,805 times, 5 visits today)

ComiConverse with us...

Yes No