Brian Takes A Vacation With Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (Movie Review)

ValerianMake no mistake about it two of my most treasured 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray releases, The Fifth Element and Lucy, are Luc Besson movies.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise when I tell  how excited I am to finally have seen his newest body of work, the sci-fiction feature Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets.  The film comes to us from a little studio who that has pretty much had their hands in everything as of late, Bad Moms, The Free State of Jones, The Gift, just to name a few.  Their business model behind the scenes is quite intriguing with their smorgasbord lineup of investors and partners.  Truth be told a Broadway producer friend of mine actually knows the owners too.  I guess you can say because of that I feel a personal connection to them.  Ha ha.  Digression aside, I’m excited to see them tackle an ambitious project like this, but more so because of my adoration of Besson’s work.  So buckle up folks.  We’re going to go on a magical space ride below.  This is the world seen by Valerian!

Luc Besson not only directs this 3D summer blockbuster, sci-fi film, but also shares writing duties with himself too as the sole screenplay writer.  However, that’s not to say all credit is due to him. Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets is based off of the French graphic novel Valérian and Laureline, published in 1967 and were written by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières.  Here’s where things get a little iffy next.  Instead of casting some big name leads like Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element for example we have Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne.  There’s nothing wrong with those names, but they’re just not someone I would bet a $100 million plus budget on.  However, in addition to them we do have some heavy hitting supporting stars such as Ethan Hawke, Rihanna, Clive Owen, John Goodman, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu and Rutger Hauer.  Get this.  Rihanna’s character is named Bubbles, a shapeshifting entertainer.  Ethan Hawke is a pimp!  You understanding thus far how crazy this adventure is?  I hope so!  Come on.  I’ll show you around.

After a overcool intro that covers decades we eventually end up with the setting where Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (just going to call it Valerian from here on out) takes place in the 28th century. Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of space-and-time-traveling agents charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories.  They are currently under assignment from the Minister of Defense (Hancock).  The pair find themselves venturing into the gigantic city of Alpha to find out who’s attacking it from within and hopefully eliminate them.  Now Alpha is not your ordinary everyday planet.  Oh no!    I called it gigantic for a reason.  It’s an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have concentrated upon over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other.  It’s all explained in the movie’s intro so don’t worry.  There is a mystery at the center of Alpha that threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets.  It’s up to agents Valerian and Laureline to ID the threat and eradicate it not only to save the planet, but the universe too.

I’m going to circle back to where I discussed the uncertainty of banking your picture on two lesser known stars.  While I fell in love with Delevigne here for obvious reasons DeHaan is no different at all than his character from the second Andrew Garfield led Spider-Man movie.  That’s unfortunate.  Despite me liking him in this he’s still no leading man material in my opinion.  Furthermore, he’s small and scrawny.  How am I supposed to believe for one second that Cara Delevigne’s beautiful character is going to fall for this man boy?  That’s not a slam to him though because he makes the most out of this role, but at the end of the day for me the “love” chemistry between Valerian and Laureline is non-existent.  They even have trouble selling the dialogue.  It’s terrible at times, but then again The Fifth Element had much the same.  However, it’s that correlation that also makes me love Valerian at the same time.

The world of Valerian is absolutely beautiful.  It’s bold, crisp and vivacious.  There’s nods to Besson’s earlier body of work, The Fifth Element, everywhere you look right down to the alien species themselves.  However, it’s so not The Fifth Element either.  Things get dragged down here by the boring love story, but I digress.  Valerian is for all intents and purposes a sci-fi lovers paradise.  Things are dumb, goofy and down right spectacular.  It’s an absolute blast to be in this gorgeous world outside of the love story.  The visual effects are top notch and even the aliens themselves rival the quality of Star Wars ones.  The overall story is a bit cut and dry, but let’s face it The Fifth Element wasn’t a 5-star screenplay either.  It’s the aloofness of it all that allows a movie like this to exist and sci-fi-fans to adore it despite the lunacy and forgivable plot at times.

I’m sorry I keep comparing Valerian to Fifth Element, but it’s the sci-fi splendor and the “element” of love that really make these two pictures siblings in my opinion. The latter pulls off the love story better, but the former with over twenty years separating the two exceeds in the splendor department. The visuals look like a million bucks. I would actually want to live on the planet Mul and the converters remind me of our teacup chihuahua Puddin’ right down to their mannerisms. Besson puts my ghost in a place where I want my shell to inhabit, and it’s not even a real world. Now I know why so many people wanted to live on Pandora back in the day. Ha ha. Seriously though, that’s the biggest change here. There’s even a virtual “VR” type of world we rummage through here. It’s insane in a very fun way, but like The Fifth Element I can totally understand how people can hate on this movie too. If you can’t check your brain and logic in at the front door, then I’m afraid it’s game over before this flick even begins. That’s just the sad, simple truth of the matter.

So all in all, Valerian is a fun rocket ride to be had. The leads, unlike Willis and Jovovich in The Fifth Element, are very forgettable, but the dumb dialogue, goofiness and sci-fi splendor we all love from Besson’s earlier work are all intact. Think of it all as Fifth Element gets an upgrade or Besson’s filmmaking techniques are updated due to advances in technology now. Where Valerian suffers for me though is that Third Act where the “element” of love gets crammed down your throat (no more spoilers), but like most things in life I’m hoping repeat visits to Valerian improve for me like fine wine as it ages. I’ll buy a ticket to see where Besson goes next with this franchise, assuming he’s making a second one. This one’s also more appealing visually to me than the bleak looking world of Nolan’s Dunkirk opening this week, so there’s always that too. I hope you decide to buy a ticket to ride Valerian here as the fun factor opening sequence is worth the price of admission alone for this geeky nerfherder. Enjoy!



Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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