Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Fig.1 Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) Movie Poster

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) is Luc Besson's latest film, of which shares some similarities in tone and style to another film of his in The Fifth Element (1997). This is very much a passion project of Besson's due to his love for the Valerian and Laureline comics, which were published from 1967 to 2010. Although The Fifth Element certainly isn't a masterclass in story-telling, the World and it's design has made it somewhat of a cult classic - Will Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets gain the same level of recognition? 

Fig.2 City of Alpha

Without doubt, the film's biggest strength lies within it's level of ambition. These unimaginable cities and environments are simply breath-taking to behold. There are set pieces that are so mind-blowing, that you must appreciate the film's craft. We are taken to several different environments, each feeling as different as the last - the production design has to be applauded, and is certainly the most memorable element of the film. However, as we do continuously jump from place to place, no setting is as explored as much as it should be, therefore leaving some details to be missed or forgotten. Additionally, the CG effects aren't as consistent as one would hope. When we see these Cities, like in Fig.2, the CG effects are at their best, but it is when other-worldly creatures are on screen when the weakness of CGI is shown. The movement in the facial details make for some creepy imagery, that makes certain characters harder to relate to.

There are certain scenes that demonstrate Besson's skill in directing through the construction of certain action set pieces. One scene in particular is when the main character, Valerian, is running through a series of environments to chase down a ship. It is fantastically well shot and flows really well, adding to our understanding of this unknown, but fantastical World.

Fig.3 Valerian (Played by Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Played by Cara Delevingne)

While the film-making is spectacular, the story-telling leaves little to be desired. The biggest problem is, unfortunately, the two lead characters and the actors who play them. While the pair do work together and share similar duties, Valerian is, as the title suggests, the primary hero out of two. Dane DeHaan's portrayal of Valerian is fairly dull and unexciting. When there is so much at stake, his performance just isn't believable and this makes him quite unforgettable as the Hero. Laureline, played by Cara Delevingne, is sadly not much better, as some of her comedic dialogue fails to hit the mark, and adds to the awkwardness in their relationship. The chemistry between the two is non-existent, so their ongoing love story doesn't work. When Bubble, a performer played by Rihanna, is introduced, it almost feels like there's more of connection between her and Valerian, than there is between Laureline and Valerian. As it is the relationship between the two leads that carries the film, there are many questions that need to be asked and some of their decisions just don't seem right.

As previously mentioned with the constant movement between Environments, the film feels rather slow. The run time is, approximately, 2 hours and 17 minutes, and for a sci-fi story such as this, it would have been a much more enjoyable experience if it was much shorter. This could be argued, though, that due to Besson's admiration for the comics he wants to show as much as possible, but this has resulted in an average story that feels too familiar. 

Fig.4 Valerian and Laureline

Despite the amount of ambition within Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, the story makes it quite unforgettable. Besson's passion for the source material is clear, and while there is some fun to be had through the visuals and set pieces, there really isn't much else that stands out. 

Illustration List:
Fig.1 Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) Movie Poster - - (Accessed 07/08/2017)

Fig.2 City of Alpha - (Accessed 07/08/2017)

Fig.3 Valerian (Played by Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Played by Cara Delevingne) - (Accessed 07/08/2017)

Fig.4 Valerian and Laureline - (Accessed 07/08/2017)


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