I’m a pretty big fan of Luc Besson’s. From Leon: The Professional and Wassabi to District 13 and The Fifth Element and more, I just tend to be driven to his work. Unfortunately, I missed Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in the theaters (here on out just referring to it as Valerian because damn, that is a mouthful of a movie title). Having just watched it at home, I would have loved to have seen this on a giant screen with booming sound. But alas, I blinked, and it was in and out of the theater before I knew it.
Based on the comic book series Valerian that Luc loved in his youth, Besson takes that passion and plasters it all over every frame of Valerian the movie. If you’re just looking for something to put your 4K TV through its paces to sit back and watch in awe, you can not go wrong popping this bad boy in. The sets, the aliens, the spaceships, everything has been finely crafted by an amazing team of artists. Avatar’s Navi be damned, I’m all about the Pearl now. Actually, my absolute favorite designs from the movie are the Commander’s K-Tron units. These robots are sleek as hell, and still images do not give them justice to how great they look moving on the screen (what can I say, I’m a sucker for cool robots).
The movie revolves around Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevvingne), special agents of the human military presence, as they uncover the meaning behind Valerian’s vision he gets in the opening of the movie. This leads to some conspiracy and cover ups that get revealed as they go about their given missions. While the film only really takes place in two locations: The Big Market and Alpha (well and the paradise planet we see in Valerian’s vision), there is a great deal of visual change from scene to scene. Given the millions of species of life that live on/in Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets, require such diverse living conditions, the viewers are almost overwhelmed by the diversity that the film sometimes just speeds through. Plus, there are a few spaceship battle scenes that are great to watch.
While the two leads play off each other well enough, they never really have that special something that Corban Dallas and Leeloo had in The Fifth Element. The actors also look a bit too much alike, which gave it a bit of a creepy vibe I’m sure was not intended. That aside, the lack of notable personality doesn’t really drag it down, but it sure does not elevate Valerian to the height of the director’s more notable films.
Valerian also suffers from telegraphing its twist a but too much. Nothing is ever too big of a surprise when it is revealed, which is fine for the most part as this is not M. Night level plot twists we are talking about here. The movie did lose me in one moment though. It’s during the climax of the film, and Valerian does one thing, then has this talk with Laureline that completely contradicts the actions he literally just performed.
So, is it a great movie? No. Is it a good movie with some stellar high points and redeeming qualities (like Rihanna’s pole dancing scene)? Yes. While I doubt this will ever reach cult status like some of Besson’s other films, it is worth a watch.
And seriously, look at Dane and Cara side by side here in this poster. It’s not just me right? They look related.