Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Dane DeHann, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Kris Wu, Sam Spruell, and Herbie Hancock
Filmmaker Luc Besson, who has composed a long career of interesting and successful choices like "The Fifth Element" and "Leon: The Professional", returns with a passion project adapted from a science fiction comic book first published in 1967 called "Valerian and Laureline". The French comic series, which has been linked as an uncredited source to George Lucas' space opera, follows two characters who travel the universe through space and time on different adventures. It's easy to see, from the opening moments of Mr. Besson's dazzling and daft "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets", that this story has shaped and molded everything the director has done throughout his career.
Valerian (Dane DeHann) is a soldier, strong willed, brave, and obedient of the orders from his superiors. Laureline (Cara Delevingne) is independent, intelligent, and opinionated about every order that is given her. Valerian and Laureline are partners, space special agents (the comics called them Spaciotemporal Agents) is probably the best term to describe them.
Mr. Besson fills his films with a very specific style, characters talk and walk in a certain way and scenes are composed with very deliberate movements. It's easy to see from the first moments of the film, during an origin scene that shows the cultivation of culture and knowledge in an ever growing megalopolis known as Alpha, that the director plans on filling the visual palette with lavish designs and boisterous characterizations. Surprisingly this has always been a quality that the director has been good at capturing, and even when it becomes overindulgent the images are never boring or dull.
Unfortunately what hurts this film is the narrative, the story wanders from one atmosphere to another without much more purpose than to serve as a visual treat, Valerian and Laureline are introduced to new creatures and characters that work to serve small narrative device adventures, and the primary focus of the story is never given the attention it should.
Dane DeHann and Cara Delevingne have a few moments of chemistry but unfortunately it is mostly lacking. However, whenever Ms. Delevingne is offered the spotlight she completely owns the scene. Mr. DeHann seems lost in the lead role, Valerian seems to have a bit of swagger and attitude but it's never provided through the actors performance. Supporting cast like Clive Owen and Ethan Hawke are given caricatures to animate and pop singer Rihanna performs an unnecessary burlesque dance and is almost immediately turned into a CGI alien, while her character is amusing it also don't serve much of a purpose.
"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" functions as a beautiful space adventure with lots of interesting visual ideas and atmospheres to occupy time, maybe not the entire 2 hour plus running time but enough. Unfortunately the characters and overall story are hard to invest in, which is unfortunately because something as visually captivating and creative as this film deserves more attention to the people and actions that is take place in it.
2.75 out of 5.00