Luc Besson is an acclaimed French director that has enjoyed international success for more than three decades. He’s also one of the few that is tied down to any one genre. In my opinion, Besson’s best works were back in the 90s when directed films such as La Femme Nikita (1990), Léon: The Professional (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997). Ever since that point in his career, he has struggled to stay above water for the most part. Even if his shine has began to dull just a tad (especially in the US), fans are still curious and hopeful to see where his next hit will drop. His last film, Lucy (2014), was yet another work that has lead to many heated debates of whether it was actually good or not. Next up for Besson is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and something tells me that the debates of its quality and enjoyment factor will not be going away any tome soon.
Beginning in the 1975, man was eager to visit the next great unknown, space. Due to its countless mysteries and boundless reach, how can you not want to explore it further? And that’s exactly what man did, for many centuries in fact. Over the centuries of exploration off planet, we have discovered that we are not alone and there are many different types of varying species populating other star systems. When an entire race is practically erased from existence, it will be up to humankind to somehow make a difference for the better.
Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) have a complex relationship. The pair work together for starters but it would also appear that there is a strong mutual attraction between the two as well. When a run-in with an unknown alien species disrupts the status quo, it is up to Valerian and Laureline to get to the bottom of what’s going on. They soon learn that they may know much less than they could have anticipated as new truths are learned every few minutes. The new revelations will force the truth to come out one way or another.
Dane DeHaan is fresh off of another interesting series of events from last year’s A Cure for Wellness and it would seem that the plot might be just as confusing. Cara Delevingne was featured in the big budget semi-successful Suicide Squad (2016) where she was also involved in a less than typical plot. It should also be noted that this pair will also be starring together again this summer in Tulip Fever so there’s definitely a familiarity between these two talented young actors. Other actors that you’ll see and get to know here are Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock and Rihanna. While not top tier names here, it’s a good mix to help put on the kind of show that we end up getting. There’s nothing earth-shattering about any of the performances but I will go on record and say that Rihanna’s role is probably one of the most interesting ones.
Where Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets shines the most is its visual spectacles that it provides. The shots are breathtaking and the colors practically jump out of the screen their vivid beauty. The same can be said for the special effects. There is such a variety of characters that we get to see that you’ll start taking the craftsmanship for granted and you shouldn’t. Honestly, the visual beauty is what will soften the blow of some of the shortcomings.
Really the one major downside, and it’s a big one, to this movie is in its plot. While it is interesting, it is NOT something that could be labeled as intriguing. Things get kind of blah for a while and then it picks back up towards the final 1/3 of the movie. Some will even struggle to stay awake unfortunately. In short, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets fails where a movie like The Fifth Element succeeded. The fun, silly parts feel forced and everything else is just middle of the road. And that’s where I’ll leave things here. This movie is just a middle of the road sci-fi movie unless you happen to be a person that just loves everything about Luc Besson. Those individuals will take a bit more joy from the plot than others. I say catch it at a matinee.