Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
This is a hard one to write for me…Not only am I a Besson fan, but I had high hopes for this film and in many ways it did meet expectations. It is visually enticing and the animation is top notch. However that is about it!
Based on Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Méziéres’ 1967 French comic “Valerian and Laureline” this is has been Luc Besson’s (The Professional, Lucy, The Fifth Element) life time passion project. The film is overflowing with places and visuals straight out of Sci-Fi and some never seen on film before, however those were far and few. Much of the film and places looked and felt as a mixture between Star Wars and Avatar, but to his credit both of those films were drew inspiration from that French Comic book. The problem I found is that for a film populated with otherworldly creatures born out of ones imagination the characters just never really take off.
The introduction of the film is set to the ethereal rock classic “Space Oddity” by David Bowie, however the rest of the film really never captures the magic of that opening montage which details earth’s history of space exploration through the centuries that follow. This film has a problem that I have never seen in a Besson film before…The cast of the main characters is just wrong. Both Valerian(Dane DeHaan) and Laureline(Cara Delevingne) are out of their league on this one. Both actors never really settle into their respective characters leaving the audience detached. The chemistry between the two is just not there, and in the end makes the pair seem more like siblings quarreling and not love interests.
In a film filmed to overwhelm you, one would presume there would be much more to discuss. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets does have some underlying messages with in it (Gender power struggles and equality, Trangender rights, Power of Govenrment over the people) it is so hidden that Besson might have completely missed the mark by saturating the film with s many visuals that the audience gets lost with in it.
Now many will compare this film to Besson’s 1997 cult classic The Fifth Element which did not do well in the box office, in my opinion because it was way ahead of its time, but Valerian is not in the same category. This might be Besson’s most ambitious project yet and valiantly conceived so I won’t completely write it off. This film rides a fine line between spectacular and a lamentable missed opportunity. In the end Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets can only be describes for lack of better words as an Epic Mess.
Running Time:137 min
by Hiram Trillo