Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.
It’s the 28th Century, and the International Space Station is now named Alpha, a thriving city of millions of different alien species who live largely harmoniously to share their knowledge and cultures. The humans form a special police division to ensure peace is kept, and includes Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne). When dark forces threaten Alpha, it’s down to Valerian and Laureline to identify the source of evil and safeguard the future existence of not only Alpha, but the entire universe.
Director Luc Besson, who has been attempting to get Valerian on screen for over 20 years, is clearly passionate about the comic book source material, although a complete lack of creative restraint makes this appear like a young child trying to show a new friend all their toys at once. The world of Alpha is undoubtedly an interesting one, but out of the millions of potential stories that could have been picked from the astronomical number of alien races, we get one that has been played out countless times before.
The two leads are oddly cast too, with the titular Valerian feeling more like a fresh faced cadet rather than a high ranking major due to the youthful appearance of 31 year old DeHaan. There’s nothing particularly bad about his perfunctory performance, but I still feel his best roles are yet to come. The same cannot be said for Delvigne, who doesn’t seem to be able to move her face to express any form of believable emotion, and delivers her lines with the enthusiasm of a long serving high school janitor having to mop the corridors yet again. On a more positive casting note, it’s a pleasure to see Clive Owen back on screen even if it is in a role that doesn’t challenge him in the slightest. The comic relief of the alien race of Shingouz is a welcome addition too, and are best compared to the coffee drinking, break room dwellers seen in Men In Black.
For all its flaws, Valerian is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The universe in which Besson so desperately wants us to be immersed in is beautifully realised, but we’re never given the opportunity to stop and take it all in. One scene in particular has Valerian literally running full speed through various worlds, with only lightning quick glimpses of what has obviously been months of meticulous work on show.
To put it simply, there’s far too much going on at once in Valerian for any of it to really matter in the grand scheme. Much like the rushed western sci-fi King adaptation The Dark Tower, a project of this scope would have been infinitely better suited to the small screen in the form of an episodic series, but judging from its huge box office losses, it appears this trip to the City of a Thousand Planets is a fleeting one way trip with no chance of a return in the foreseeable future.
Great to see Clive Owen back on screen
A vivid, well realised universe that we don't get enough time to marvel at
Arduous task of sitting through 2 and a half hours for a main story that could have been told in half the time
Creative restraint is none existent
Flat performances from the two leads who exhibit no chemistry when on screen together