Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – 2017

Written and Directed by Luc Besson
Based on the Comic Series Valérian and Laureline by Jean-Claude Mézières, Pierre Christin
Starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer

When it was released in July 2017, word had preceded the Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was going to be a bomb in the U.S. at the very least. The leads are dreadful, and not worthy of the honor of the special effects extravaganza from the director of The Fifth Element and more importantly, Leon. That much is true. DeHaan and Delivingne are the least interesting duo to head a summer blockbuster in my memory. The chemistry is nonexistent and the dialogue actually makes everything worse. This doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t work.

There is never a moment in Valerian…  where one’s eyes are not completely riveted by every image on the screen. In the era of digital imagery, this may be the cleanest, most compelling work to date. The mixture of practical and virtual is flawless. 

The story involves the building of a space station outside of the planet earth. Over time, the additions of the countries to the station lead to adding other planets. This eventually leads to a space station so big, they need to relocate. 

In another part of the universe, a beatific paradise of a planet is attacked as collateral damage in a war between other civilizations. The soul of the planet leader’s daughter is subsumed into the ethos, where eventually it settles on DeHaan’s Valerian.

Valerian, along with his partner Laureline (Delevingne) are part of a space military of sorts. They come across a couple of remnants from that civilization. 

Where this leads is almost irrelevant. The plot is so banal, it’s entirely unworthy of the peoples that decorate the screen. There are many original ideas and cultures, each interesting in their own way. In anchoring these wonderful entities to such a labored and ugly plot is a shame.

Fortunately, the film is so incredible to watch, it helps the viewer overcome the bland nature of its story. Every scene is like a painting come alive. 

It’s the rare film that can keep the attention of both me and my wife. Neither of us moved during the whole running time. We just dreaded every word. 

Our two leads are outmatched by every bit of that scenery and the plot that dictates their allegiance to each other. DeHaan’s over-husked voice gives the appearance of a 14 year old trying to play 32. There is a debate over his reputation as a Lothario versus his trying to convince her to become his wife. Ugh.

In the end, they have but one good scene between the two of him, and that’s when Laureline punches the bad guy in the face incessantly. It made me feel like she was punching the plot for ruining such a good film.

(***1/2 out of ******)

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