Hot Take: Stylish and entertaining enough to be slightly above average, if you can believe that because I surely couldn’t.
Usually, when I despise a trailer as much as I despised the trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, at best the movie gets a mediocre review. Somehow, even with a trailer (actually, multiple trailer) that would have scared me off if I were to only see a handful of movies and a ridiculously excessive run time of 137 minutes, I walked away from Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets with two major revelations: (1) This movie is definitely worth seeing in theaters (mainly because of the stunning visuals) and (2) I’m looking forward to seeing it again down the road (just not right now).
As director and writer, Luc Besson brings to life the influential French science fiction comic Valerian and Laureline in the form of this 28th century Sci-Fi adventure that is an absolute visual masterpiece. Along the lines of The Fifth Element, a previous Besson work, the story is secondary to the stunning display and creative vision of the future. Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is a 28th century special agent of the human police forces and he’s joined by his partner Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) as they both are assigned the task of hunting down stolen property and are thrust into the middle of a galactic incident. Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets, plays a central role in the second half of the film as Valerian and Laureline head back there after recovering the stolen property while Valerian is seemingly affected by some visions of an apocalyptic event that wiped out the majority of a race of low-tech humanoid race that vaguely look like descendants of the beings in Avatar (if they had descendants). The alien beings in his vision look to steal the items which Valerian and Laureline recovered which takes us on a journey throughout various areas on Alpha.
As you might be able to discern, the story is tangled but the cinematography and CGI are something else. There are a number of memorable scenes throughout including an impressive appearance by Rihanna as Bubble, a shapeshifting entertainer who can mimic anything or anyone on request. It’s visually impressive and not just because it involves Rihanna on a stripper pole. While a number of the scenes are derivative of other Sci-Fi films which could be more about Valerian and Laureline’s influence on Sci-Fi more than Besson borrowing from other work, each scene is pure eye candy and even though the story is as thin as nylon, it’s interesting enough to not totally bury the enjoyment of the film.
If I wanted to be hyper critical, there are times where Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets more closely resembles the prequels of Star Wars than the original trilogy. Some of the acting in front of obvious green screens is hollow and hard to buy. And there are times where Besson’s imagination appears to have exploded all over the screen and every random thought he had was stuffed somewhere into the movie. But since I’m not being hyper critical, feel free to ignore that paragraph.
Give Beeson a lot of credit for what he’s able to pull off here visually. Sure, the plot may not be that memorable nor are Dane DeHaan or Cara Delevigne going to get nominated for any awards (unless the MTV Movie Awards have an award this year for cutest couple but even then knowing the MTV Movie Awards, that award will go to The Rock and Zac Efron for Baywatch) but Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets could find itself mentioned in some of the technical awards that somehow manage to maintain some immunity to the amnesia that summer contributes to Awards season. It might be better to see in theaters unless you have a 70″ 4K TV or you want to see it in a lesser medium which will only further bring to the surface the plot problems. You’ve been warned.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Rihanna As Herself (Almost)!
The role they found for Rihanna could have been for any superstar music artist with a knack for music videos. Rihanna worked out just fine.
- Ethan Hawke: Pimp of the Year
Hawke’s over-the-top appearance only further enhanced Rihanna’s appearance as Hawke plays Rihanna’s pimp in some glorious overacting.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Sometimes You Can’t Even Tell the Actors Are in Front of a Green Screen But THIS Isn’t One of Those Times
It’s as if they didn’t care to get that right or tried so many times and failed they just gave up.
- Why So Blue?
I can’t figure out what our love affair is with blue people. It seems we expect to evolve into a blue creature at some point in our evolution or maybe I’m reading too much into it.