Movie Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Past the dazzling visuals, Valerian is a generic and dull sci-fi flick with nothing interesting to invest in no thanks to its miscast leads, cardboard characters, and a vapid self-indulgent script.

In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha—an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

For the Fifth Element fans who want to see more of Luc Besson’s take on a sci-fi epic, Valerian is his latest blockbuster offering.

Valerian does have plenty of visual effects spectacle to ogle at, some inspired by the source material. Alpha, the city of a thousand planets, is based from Point Central. Luc Besson fills the screen with sci-fi eye candy such as the various alien inhabitants through a montage of handshakes and the four main sectors of the space station with a lavish introduction. The opening act itself can be a painting – nature-loving Na’vi looking humanoids live in a pristine island with perpetual blue skies, until falling spaceships puncture its atmosphere and mire the scenery with its jarring contrasts of black.

The setting does provide some nifty moments here, such as an undercover operation in shifting dimensions and Rihanna’s performance. None of the action sequences are inventive or anything new, but watchable enough thanks to the visuals.

Unfortunately no matter how pretty it looks, Valerian is a pointless spectacle that can’t be redeemed by whatever visuals Luc Besson crams in the screen.

There’s no one to invest in this movie as its cardboard characters are as one-dimensional as its CGI creatures. On of top of this, the lead actor is miscast – mopey Dane DeHaan doesn’t fit the cocksure space rogue, no matter how much the females are used to prop him up. Cara Delevingne is wooden as Laureline, who’s reduced to an amalgam of characteristics from male fantasies – a damsel in distress and manic pixie dream girl in one. They don’t have the chemistry nor charisma to redeem this CGI-decorated film.

I say decorated because the movie gives a slideshow of visuals but never attempts to build a convincing world out of it. The only glimpse to Alpha lies somewhere in the second act when Valerian teams up with bubble, a shapeshifting entertainer who also turns out to be an immigrant trapped in the employ of a pimp named Jolly. The script is too busy giving you a tour that it never develops anything beyond generic and contrived storytelling.

The plot plods through a tacked on story involving a heist, a conspiracy theory, and a dying civilization. They become an excuse to show more set pieces and CGI shenanigans. In one scene its obvious that a bunch of characters are in a sound stage in front of a green screen. Everything unravels towards the end in a big turd of an exposition dump with hammy dialogue and an obvious villain.

The result is a self-indulgent and vapid sci-fi flick. Valerian gets lost in its own reflection and becomes another visually dazzling but ultimately dull blockbuster.

My Rating: 4/10

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dan O. says:

    Just such a nutty movie. Nice review.

    1. Arline says:

      Thanks. I was hoping to be immersed in this world and came out of the cinema bored.

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