It would be a challenge to give this film a pass especially for the terrific special visual effects, designs of the many creatures and for the many hours the two main characters must have labored in their roles, but Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets drags and drones through nearly 2 and a half hours. Even as I write this review, I am tempted to alter my opinion, but it wouldn’t help the awful music moaning in the background in nearly every “exciting” scene, plot holes that are beyond fantasy, and negative attempts at virtual reality. Adults looking for adventure will be hard pressed to find it to their liking, much like John Carter fell on its face with the over 25-year-olds.
That said I have to say there’s nothing like the film out there and it will attract pre-teens and teens by the droves, if they are tired of Spider-Man, and the weekend box-office should bust at the seams. Why? Because the trailer has been cut that presses all the right buttons showing amazing gadgets, alien super beasts, fantasy scenes, and high energy action sequences. The advertising gives the impression of being a mix between Avatar and Star Wars, and although there is a lot of that in the movie, it will give you déjà vu again and again and again.
The film opens on the distant planet of Mul where the inhabitants live without notice behind a cloud shield. They are a peaceful people living on the shores of expansive seas that provide food and other important things like pearls that give them a long life. Their secret is the Mul Converter, a nearly extinct tiny animal that can make thousands of pearls in a matter of seconds. All of a sudden the tribe gets attacked with explosions coming into their atmosphere. During the melee that follows the converter is stolen.
Switch to Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), a two member team of interstellar cops that are charged with keeping the universes safe from thieves and marauders. They are assigned a case and travel to a dessert planet to acquire the converter and bring it to Commander Stone Hopper (Clive Owen). Their task nearly kills them both, leading them to Alpha a makeshift city of space platforms that’s inhabited by species of every kind in the Galaxy. It’s called the city of a thousand planets that provides a center where aliens can study each other and what they have accomplished.
So begins an adventure that will take them into the bowels of the most dangerous center of Alpha. The film’s not the usual Luc Besson as far as length of movie and action scene music enhancement. His Lucy, La Femme Nikita, and Leon: The Professional were non-stop actioners with a lot of special effects and music that brought chills to the fast moving plot. Well, Luc may have wanted a more surreal soundtrack, but not elevator music. Stop, yes there are a lot of techno and hard rock mix used in the film, but not where the most daunting scenes take place.
Now for the good part. The CGI is amazing in 3D giving the feel that you are right there or watching through your virtual reality head gear. Teens that game a lot will love the effect of moving around the universe being voyeurs to enough mayhem to last a lifetime. The special effects teams outdo most anything I’ve seen recently with alien characters, city backdrops, wide vistas, and chase scenes across deserts, into fantasy worlds and across the galaxy.
The plot tends to give the feeling that you’ve seen “that sequences” before, but with different characters. In Wonder Woman it also opens with a peaceful people being invaded. The characters on Mul look like they have been cloned from a race much like the ones in Avatar. But it doesn’t stop there, as Valerian and Laureline, much like Guardians of the Galaxy, are on a quest for a “jewel” that has powers to control and destroy. Well I can go on from there with Star Wars, etc. but I think by now I’ve made my point.
Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevingne give very good performances as the star crossed lovers who have to work together to save the Universe. Every action scene have the two actors putting everything they’ve got into their roles. And bonded by a good bit of chemistry together, they look like they are having a lot of fun in their character’s skins.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language. Most pre-teens will want to see the film, so be prepared to get and older family member to take them to see it. If they are playing most of the action games on their Xbox the movie’s just more of the same.
FINAL ANALYSIS: The effort by the filmmaker is amazing, but the post production department fails to make it a winner.
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Dane Dehaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Sam Spruell, Alain Chabat, Rutger Hauer
Directed by: Luc Besson
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-fi, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language
Running Time: 2 hrs. 17 min.
Release Date: July 21, 2017
Distributed by: STX Films
Released in: 2D, 3D, Real D
The comments within this review are the critic’s expressed opinions.