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Monday, June 25, 2018

Movie Review: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS (2017)

valerian-and-the-city-of-a-thousand-planets-movie-review

Director: Luc Besson
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer
Runtime: 137 min
Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language
Purchasing Links: DVD, Blu-ray

Read the review after the jump.



VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

Review by Popa Razvan


Luc Besson's "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" is a strange beast, but probably one of the better space adventures I've seen in a while. The film is based on the French comic book series written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mezieres. Being a huge fan of the comics, Besson dreamed of adapting "Valerian" ever since he wrote and directed "The Fifth Element". But money and visual effects technology were his main problems. Once "Avatar" hit theaters, Besson finally found the tools he needed to make the film.




With an impressive $180 million budget, making it the most expensive non-American production and independent film ever made, and after seven years in the making, "Valerian" eventually flopped at the U.S. Box-office and failed to break even worldwide. Although it didn't lose money for any major movie studio, since it was funded like an indie (including pre-selling rights to foreign distributors), the film brought in only $225 million worldwide, and has been branded a failure. According to pundits, in order to break even, the film should have grossed around $400 million. As it is, plans for a sequel are in doubt.


Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets Dane Dehaan Cara Delevingne Image 1


But enough about boring numbers. Even though it couldn't find a wider audience, and the critics weren't too kind, either, I would still recommend this movie, especially if you're a sci-fi enthusiast. The story is pretty straightforward. We have two special operatives, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), who are part of a law enforcing division tasked with keeping the peace throughout the galaxy. During one of their missions, the two stumble upon a conspiracy which involves a race of humanoids that has been supposedly destroyed a long time ago. The plot thickens once they return home to Alpha, the titular City of a Thousand Planets, an enormous former space station that has grown into a full-blown space metropolis, populated by pretty much every species known to the universe. Valerian and Laureline must now race to discover who the enemy really is and protect both Alpha and the entire universe. You know, typical sci-fi adventure stuff.


Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets Dane Dehaan Image 2


The above is the most spoiler-free synopsis that I can manage. There's really a lot going on in this movie, and as convoluted as can be expected. While Besson's script does try to cram in a lot of information at breakneck speed, the film's pace is somewhat leisurely. It's not a particularly long film, clocking in at around 2 hours and 10 minutes sans credits. As such, the film rarely slows down, and something more or less interesting is happening at all times. It balances its exposition carefully, so it never gets overly talky, and there's plenty of action laced with well-placed humor throughout. Plus, there's a pretty decent mystery at its core. It might have required some fine tuning here and there, but the experience as a whole is as smooth as can be expected.


Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets Dane Dehaan Cara Delevingne Image 4


As far as the acting goes, DeHaan and Delevingne are not necessarily the best thing about the movie, but they handle their roles well enough. Valerian and Laureline are completely opposite personalities. The former is an easy-going womanizer, while the latter is a tough as nails, no-nonsense kind of gal. And, as the rules say, opposites attract. I might have missed the spark of what makes the romantic angle worth rooting for, but as individual characters, I'd say both were well cast. While the acting won't win any awards, and there's certainly no depth to these characters, the two have enough charisma to make them fun to watch. Remember when Milla Jovovich and Chris Tucker earned Razzie nods for "The Fifth Element" ? Well that movie is a sci-fi classic nowadays. The acting is not that important in movies of this sort. If you can get good looking actors with at least half decent screen presence, you're all set.


Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets Movie Image 17


If the quality of the film's narrative, writing and acting might be a matter of debate, the production design and visual effects are pretty much perfect across the board. Imaginative and wildly ambitious, the film is at its best when it runs wild with its wacky creatures and over-the-top action set pieces. Besson, cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, and editor Julien Rey join forces to craft an amazing spectacle that really should be seen on the biggest screen available. Just an example, the opening sequence depicting the evolution of Alpha throughout the centuries while David Bowie's "Space Oddity" plays in the background is an instant classic.

While "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" may have had a hard time convincing critics and audiences, I found it to be an incredibly fun thrill ride filled with showstopping visuals, exciting action, and a pretty decent story. I warmly recommend it if you're into this kind of movie and are looking for some light-hearted sci-fi fun.


TRAILER





THE VERDICT

THE GOOD:
  • Imaginative and ambitious
  • Excellent production design and visual effects
  • Great mix of action and humor
  • Decent sci-fi plot with plenty of mystery and twists
  • Two charming leads
  • Perfect editing and cinematography

THE BAD:
  • No real depth to its leads
  • Not much on-screen chemistry between DeHaan and Delevingne
  • Narrative imbalances here and there


ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR SCORE: 75%





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