The newest Luc Besson film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, is set several hundreds of years into the future, after mankind and many alien species have joined alliances to create Alpha in hopes of exchanging knowledge in the far reaches of space. Agents Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevinge) are charged with discovering and putting a stop to a growing threat inside the center of the city, which involves traveling through to the actual center of the space city. The adventure involves saving, fighting, and joining forces with many of the inhabitants. In doing so, they not only save Alpha, but all the citizens and then some.
Luc Besson is the legendary film maker of The Fifth Element and Lucy. In the very beginning of this film, you can identify the same style that went into The Fifth Element that is also in this movie. Mostly in the alien designs. This film has turned out to be one of Europe’s most expensive movies ever made at a cost of 117-210 billion. Since the effects were suppose to be so magnificent, I went ahead and saw it in 3D. The effects definitely did not disappoint. The story line is a whole other can of worms though.
As I’ve stated before, you can definitely see similarities between Valerian and The Fifth Element in the way they are shot and the designs of the aliens and environments around them. When it came to characters, story, and everything else… Meh. Valerian brags throughout the whole movie at how he is a good soldiers that gets the job done (top of his class and all that jazz). He isn’t wrong, but most of the time is saved by his partner, Laureline. However, between the two of them, in my mind, there wasn’t much character development or even chemestry. In interviews with Besson, he talked about how Valerian is absolutely in love with his partner, but I didn’t feel it.
When we first see them, they have a discussion about his playlist (aka the list of women he’s slept with), but he doesn’t make a real effort to convince her that she’s who he wants to be with. Which, I understand that by the end of the movie, he “deletes” the playlist, but it just felt a bit forced. When Valerian proposes to her, it’s a bit annoying… Mostly because he consistently talks about it throughout the remaining of the film. Like, dude… We got it. Laureline is smart and serious about her job… but that’s it. She’s serious at all times. Though she does save him plenty of times (both physically and morally), there’s just not much character development with her either. I can appreciate some of the sarcasm though.
Other than the effects, it did have good parts. John Goodman makes an appearance (voice-wise) as a black market dealer in a market place that only exist in another dimension. Rihanna plays Bubble, the shape-shifting, burlesque-dancing prostitute who’s being pimped out by Jolly (Ethan Hawke). John Clive plays Commander Arün Filitt, a military man who is obsessed with hiding his sins for the “good of humans” in Alpha. There’s a scene where Delevingne is kidnapped by aliens that results in a pretty humorous exchange between the queen and Laureline.
You can definitely tell that Luc Besson put a lot of heart into the designs and effects of Valerian, but it just seems like he was so focused on the visual part of it that he forgot to tweak the story and all that exists in that world. In interviews, he seems so excited that he finally got to make this movie, but it just a little short. Honestly, it’s not the most awful film I’ve ever seen (cough cough… Batman Forever), but it’s not one that I would watch in hopes that it will give me some sort of life changing epiphany.
Should you watch Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets? Yeah, sure. I mean, it is one of Europe’s most expensive films to date. Should you expect to be wowed? The extremely expensive effects will definitely impress you, but just don’t expect to be blown away by the story. I will say that I now am a little interested in reading the French graphic novels this movie was based on in hopes of recovering what may have been lost from paper to screen.