Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Ten years after The Fifth Element, fantasy film director Luc Besson puts together the most expensive French flick in history. Compared to his ‘97 Bruce Willis sci-fi flick, which had 188 visual effects shots, this one has 2734. It’s another case of technology overriding anything else on screen. Lead actor DeHaan (coming off another failed sci-fi fantasy A Cure for Wellness), and model turned actress Delevingne (Paper Towns), can’t make this film work, in fact they barely stand out competing with all the visuals. Full disclosure, wasn’t a Fifth Element fan, nor Jupiter Ascending or even that terrible R.I.P.D. garbage Jeff Bridges did. Valerian borrows everything it’s got from previous science fiction films. These more-for-more genre epics try to fill every corner with hundreds of creatures (this film contains over 600 various alien monsters) to the point where is stupefies whatever plot they are selling.

The future of the space center expands into a city equal to the population of earth. From 2020 to 2150, Alpha as it’s called, becomes the intergalactic space station metropolis for all species. It’s policed by humans, asserting themselves as the most important of living beings. Special operatives Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) are two of the most trusted and experienced agents. The ethical crime fighting lovers discover that their own government is trying to cover up a high-ranking officials bad call that resulted in the destruction of an entire planet. The life on that planet have now returned as Laureline and Valerian acquire a creature that can sustain their race. Caught between allegiance and doing what’s right, the duo might fight to survive two battling forces.

What saves Besson’s special effects epic from becoming one of the years Razzie contenders is gender politics.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand special effects just has too much of everything. The jokes are corny, the creatures look like animations from two-year-old drawings. Clive Owen is supposed to be the villain general, but barely has any screen time. Continuing the new trend of shoving pop-artists into mainstream film and television (i.e. Harry Styles in Dunkirk, Ed Sheeran in Game of Thrones), Rihanna jumps in during act three for a little song and dance, which is a great time for a bathroom break. Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke is in there doing nothing important, and if you listen carefully you will hear John Goodman in a character that’s a direct copycat of Jabba the Hut.

The screenplay is messy, the dialogue between the two leads laughable. Their entire performance is acting in front a green screen which adds up to maybe the worst chemistry this summer. What saves Besson’s special effects epic from becoming one of the years Razzie contenders is gender politics. Laureline consistently equalizes herself against the stereotypical macho role DeHaan inhabits. But that’s where the biggest joke lies. Once again, the scrawny, bargain bin version of Leo DiCaprio, is entirely miscast as a character that’s referred to as “a lady killer”. The total dependence on special effects infected me with boredom early on and never let go. The two and a half hour sci-fi-action-fantasy-romance throws in so much turmoil that’s it’s easy to get lost in the plot.

Final Thought

A sci-fi snooze fest.


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