I am a bit of a sci fi nut. It can take us to completely different worlds, it can show us so many amazing things and it is one of the only genres I think that has limitless possibilities regarding creativity and imagination. One of the directors working today that embodies this philosophy is Luc Besson, the man behind the gorgeous out of this world adventure The Fifth Element. Besson has a new film, marketed as the new Fifth Element, based on a French graphic novel that started back in the 1970’s, that film is Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Worlds.
Set in the 28th Century agents Valerian and Laureline are police officers operating in the human part of a giant space station called Alpha that consists of thousands of different species co-existing and sharing knowledge and technology. However, there is an unknown threat to the station that starts the duo on the path to discover a massive governmental cover-up.
This is going to be an odd review so I am just going to jump right in. I did not enjoy the plot of the film, you could tell where it was going about 5 minutes in. It’s a typical conspiracy film, but without any of the subtlety or the surprise that is required to make it compelling. You can tell who the villain is and the only surprise comes from the realisation that no one else in the film was able to figure out the mystery. Even when they do they have no evidence to prove their claims. So the story becomes a complete joke by the end of the movie.
I certainly did not enjoy the characters. Take Valerian and Laureline for instance, played by planks of wood Dane DeHaan from The Amazing Spider Man 2 and Suicide Squad’s Cara Delevingne. They have all the chemistry of a damp piece of fire wood and switch character motivations on a whim. We are introduced to Valerian as a roguish adventurer, a womaniser and trickster. Lauraline is a by the books prickly professional focused on doing the job. However, by the end, they have reversed characters without any reason for it, so when there is a conflict between the two over the climactic reveal their stances are completely baffling. The most damning thing I can say is that I probably couldn’t tell you anything about them without telling you their name and what they looked like.
The rest of the cast does an okay job filling out Space Station Alpha dutifully. We have Clive Owen doing something as the commander of the human part of the station. We have Ethan Hawke doing something incredibly strange as a galactic pimp. We even have Cate Blanchette right at the very end doing her best Galadriel. However, something that stuck in my craw about the cast was the inclusion of Rihanna as a changeling alien called Bubble. She is in the movie for a maximum of 15 minutes adds nothing to the story other than a bit of titilation and flair but apart from that her section could have been cut from the movie and nothing would have been lost.
From that description, you would think that I didn’t enjoy Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets at all. What is strange though is that I actually enjoyed the film. Valerian and Laureline are probably the most boring part of the expansive and imaginative world that director of Lucy and Fifth Element, Luc Besson, has made. The best part of the film is the part when the world is being built. For instance there is a great sequence of earth building Alpha welcoming all nations to the station, then it starts to welcome aliens as well. It was a very clever quick way of getting the audience up to speed with the setting of the movie. I also liked the interdimensional market: It was just so imaginative I couldn’t help marvelling at it. I wanted to see more of the station, I wanted to meet more strange and weird aliens, learn about their cultures and the politics of Alpha rather than a paint by numbers throw away action flick. This is without a doubt the most visually engaging science fiction of the year, and I thoroughly enjoyed just looking at the scenery and creature design during the kinetic action sequences. It’s a shame that there was a boring plot and boring characters taking us through this bonkers world.
Valerian will not be for everyone, hell I thought that most of it was trash when the characters were doing things or when the plot was happening. It’s not a great movie at all and I admit that wholeheartedly. However, if you are looking for a spectical that other movies just can’t provide then Valerian but I would recommend that you don’t wait until it comes to home video as it will lose all of its magic, as Avatar did. I suggest a 3d cinema, with the biggest screen imaginable because it is a universe that I wish I could have seen more of.
You can watch Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets in Cinemas now