Unimaginative Blunder: Our Review of ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 20, 2017
Unimaginative Blunder: Our Review of ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

Pretty can only take you so far, and while at times visually dazzling, Luc Besson’s latest sci-fi romp is inane, incoherent, and most disappointing of all, familiar.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has some all-too typical elements of action adventure, complete with a cocky male protagonist, a sidelined beautiful female sidekick, a lot of sci-fi jargon, and terrible writing. Valerian still may keep you captivated for a while, with a stunning opening sequence that finds a idyllic planet with a peaceful species suddenly devastated, but that doesn’t last long.

From there, the story gets muddled and the characters fall into stereotypes. Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is a Major in some sort of universal government body in the distant future. He is tasked with retrieving a device, and as luck would have it, he isn’t given the real reasons why. He enlists his partner – a Sergeant, he likes to remind – whom he is also, not surprisingly, doting on. She is Laureline (in the comics on which the film is based, she is part of the title), played by Cara Delevingne, and most of the time she takes orders, and when she does in fact save Valerian a few times, he doesn’t really give her any credit.

Of course they’ve a romantic subplot, and of course it’s forced, but the main, albeit bungled story finds something sinister at the center of a massive, interspecies space hub. This danger zone threatens all the many, many creatures on the station, so Valerian must stop it.

Besson has made a great space opera in the past in The Fifth Element, and Valerian doesn’t come close. For one, there is a lengthy tangent in the middle of the film that seems entirely unnecessary, save for the chance to get Ethan Hawke and Rihanna to have indulgent cameos.

What’s most problematic about Valerian though is that it’s more male fantasy wish fulfillment. Valerian just isn’t tasked by the government to carry out a mission see – he has also been chosen by a dying woman of an an endangered species because he supposedly has some great qualities. Why Laureline isn’t selected is beyond me, and that’s just one of the many questions this film conveniently fails to answer. Another question is: just what is Clive Owen doing in this movie, and why?

Strange creatures and beautiful sights abound, and a heist sequence that involves traversing various dimensions simultaneously is rather thrilling. Still, Valerian gets too dumb, too stereotypical, and ultimately too boring to sustain any good will as it lumbers towards a predictable and dull finale. Perhaps Laureline would have made a better focus – hint: she would have.

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