VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

PrintE-mail Written by Ryan Pollard

When it comes to creating insane, overblown, overambitious sci-fi, writer/director Luc Besson really is in a world of his own. Every once in a while, we get a rarity in cinema; a film that can be dumber than a box of rocks, yet you don’t care because you’re entertained by its complete stupidity, and Besson succeeded in creating that with his epic sci-fi schlockfest Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a colourfully ridiculous, yet strangely archaic, roller coaster ride. Adapted from the French sci-fi comic that Besson grew up with, Valérian and Laureline, this film finally brings his childhood heroes to the big screen, and what we get is one of the dumbest movies to have been released in the past decade, yet is gorgeous to behold and wildly inventive.

The plot is sub-Star Wars/Star Trek/Guardians of the Galaxy hokum, yet this has more in common with the hilarious 1978 insanity that is Starcrash (which recently got riffed on the latest series of MST3K), a film, like Valerian, has gorgeous eye-popping visuals yet was saddled with a plot that made absolutely no sense whatsoever and starred actors like Caroline Munro and Christopher Plummer that were completely at a loss as to how to act/react to the film they were in. Here, you have Dane DeHann as the titular Valerian trying to act like a swashbuckling womaniser, yet he just comes off like Keanu Reeves taking Bill & Ted seriously, and the results are hilarious to behold. As for Cara Delevingne, she does give her best performance to date, but even then, that’s not saying much, and frankly, the chemistry between her and Dehaan is as believable as Edward and Bella; they try to act serious and cool but come off as forced and laughably goofy. Ethan Hawke is enjoyably campy, and surprisingly, Rihanna gives the best performance in the entire movie, even if she was ultimately wasted in the grand scheme of things.

It’s clear that Besson wanted to translate some of the concepts from the original comic onto the big screen, yet he manages to conjoin that with a plot that is borderline nonsensical and dialogue so cheesy it would make George Lucas cringe. In some ways, the plot of this film plays out almost like a video game where you have our main protagonists embark on a quest to find something really important, take on a number of side quests along the way before reaching the final level, yet bizarrely, the side quests here were more entertaining than the actual main one. This makes Besson’s The Fifth Element look like the works of Shakespeare in comparison, yet you can easily see both films as being enjoyable stupid films, except the difference is that The Fifth Element was much better paced and wittier whereas this is overlong, baggy and filled with cheese-riddled sentences. However, the visual design is nevertheless incredibly realised and beautiful on the eyes; you can easily get lost in these amazing worlds with creative alien side characters, inventive locations and cool sci-fi tech to drool over.

In the end, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is absolute nonsense like no other, playing out almost like Jupiter Ascending, but with an actual sense of humour. It’s beautifully realised, highly imaginative and creative, yet has goofy performances and a script that revels in its cheesiness with holes large enough to drive a tank through. However, audiences ridiculed The Fifth Element when it was first released 20 years ago, and ever since, it has gained a huge cult following with many regarding it as a true masterpiece. Lord knows if the same will be said of this, but if you go into this movie expecting it to be a phenomenal masterpiece, then look somewhere else. Otherwise, if you just want to turn off your brain, experience a film that throws all logic out the window, and as a result, laugh at how ridiculously stupid it is, then this may be the movie for you.

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS / CERT:12A / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: LUC BESSON / STARRING: DANE DEHAAN, CARA DELEVINGNE, CLIVE OWEN, ETHAN HAWKE, RIHANNA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Expected Rating: 6 out of 10
Actual Rating: 



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