VALERIAN AND THE CITY
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Running time: 147 minutes approx
Valerian - Dane DeHaan
Laureline - Cara Delevingne
Arun Filitt - Clive Owen
Bubble - Rihanna
Jolly - Ethan Hawke
Directed by Luc Besson
Written by Pierre Christin, Jean-Claude Mézières & Luc Besson
Valerian and Laureline are the superstar agents of the Galactic Federation's police force. Their latest mission involves heisting a one of a kind creature and taking it to the largest city in the universe, Alpha. There, however, they discover that the creature is more important than they could have imagined and the centre of a scandal that could bring down the entire government.
Luc Besson has reportedly long harboured his desire to put the pulp space opera antics of Valerian and Laureline on the screen and it's easy to see why. The James Bond of outer space, only with better gadgets and a whole primary-coloured universe to do his derring in, you can see how young boys everywhere would thrill to his action-packed adventures. Which is, sadly, more than you can say for this mess of a movie.
It's worth pointing out, before we get started, that the film looks stunning. If there is one thing that Luc Besson knows how to do it's make a good-looking film. The universe of THE FIFTH ELEMENT is nothing compared to the sprawling imagination on display here. It is a shame, then that the same imagination did not extend to such areas as plot, character development, casting. Well, anything really. After all, top of the range special effects is the least we can expect from blockbuster sci-fi epics these days. It's not the number of your effects that matters, it's how you use them. They are mainly used here to singe the retinas of the audience. There has rarely been a universe as bright and bustling as this one.
Sadly, the humans that inhabit this universe are the most drab things in it. DeHaan and Delevingne are undeniably pretty, but go through the entire film with the same pouting expression. The computer-generated extras from AVATAR in the extended opening sequence are more expressive than this pair. Clive Owen gives a performance, at least, but it is the performance of a man constantly in pain at the dialogue that he is being given. It says something about your film when the best showing is from Rihanna as a shape-shifting alien prostitute called Bubble and what it says is not good.
The actors aren't helped by that lumpen and awful script. There are far too many occasions where the audience can say the words along with the cast, so obvious is the dialogue. The plot, such as it is, lurches from one set piece to another with no discernable change of pace and, at over two hours long, that's a marathon being run at a sprint. It very soon becomes tiresome overkill. It feels very much like Besson is trying to put all the best bits he remembers into a single film because he knows it's never going to make a franchise.
There is the possibility that the younger generations, raised on MTV and every-second edits, will respond to this approach and we've already said that there is much world-building to admire and scenery is spectacular, but VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS ends up being a tedious chore.
The opening sequence of time-lapse human space endeavour is wonderful and promised so much better.