Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna
Age Restriction: 10–12PG V
Runtime: 2hrs 17min
Release Date: 21 July 2017
Luc Besson's love for Science Fiction films is no secret. The French filmmaker has a few successful futuristic blockbusters under his belt, including the exquisite Fifth Element and the subpar (but box office smash) Lucy.
After numerous smash-hits – including the Taken film series (which starred Liam Neeson) – and the massive improvement in technology, Besson finally gets to make what many are reporting is his passion project... a film adaptation of the Sci-Fi French comic book series, Valérian and Laureline.
Like most outer-space films, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets takes place in the future (the 28th century to be precise) where humans and various alien races live together (in harmony) in the floating city of Alpha – an expanding space station-like metropolis.
However; Alpha is only the backdrop of the film, as Besson's Sci-Fi epic mainly focuses on Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) – space agents who journey across the cosmos after a dark secret sets off a chain of events.
Besson puts a substantial amount of focus on world-building and exploring the far reaches of the Valerian universe, with exceptionally well-crafted aliens and breathtaking fantastical locations. The result is an innovative visual feast (competing with the likes of James Cameron's Avatar) and possibly the best-looking film you'll see this year.
The Oscars have clearly found their Best Visual Effects frontrunner for next year's glitzy event; unless another offering is able to trump Valerian – a highly doubtful notion, considering the massive bar the lavish space adventure sets.
If Besson can create a film with aesthetic, cinematography and visuals of this alluring scale, what's stopping the action from being equally as impressive? Space chases, virtual reality-like devices, futuristic weapons, planet destructions and extraterrestrial battles – Valerian is an ambitious visual masterpiece that should be experienced on the biggest possible screen (i.e. IMAX).
Because of Besson's desire to draw viewers into the CGI beauty of the various locales in the film, the filmmaker at least tries to squeeze in some character building. Unfortunately, there is not enough room to fit everything into the pot, resulting in slightly undercooked characters.
While the up and coming DeHaan and Delevingne weren't particularly impressive picks for the two lead roles; the duo more than deliver sufficient enough performances – despite a non-existent chemistry.
With all the inventiveness Besson is able to achieve with Valerian; it's a real shame the filmmaker couldn't attain a similar feat with the story. The first half of the film's plot is bonkers (in a good way), ambitious, along with plenty potential and promise that set it apart from any space film that's ever graced the big screen.
The story unfortunately gets lost in the crowd from the midway point onwards. And by the time the third act rolls in, we're reduced to a predictable narrative that squanders what could've been a groundbreaking Sci-Fi epic.
Intriguing, fascinating, alluring and flawed; Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets could've been a groundbreaking piece of cinema had it not been for its thinly, cliché-ridden narrative. However, its inventive aesthetic and splendorous world-building make it a real visual masterpiece; and add in the fact that Hollywood no longer crafts films of this calibre anymore; only cements Luc Besson's latest Sci-Fi flick as a must-see event.