REVIEW: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Written and directed by Luc Besson
By Christopher Spencer
Written and directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Lucy), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevigne as Valerian and Laureline, two government agents traveling the stars in the 28th century. Based off the influential French comic series Valérian and Laureline, the couple are setting out to uncover a sinister conspiracy at the heart of the space station Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets.
Luc Besson has been trying to make this movie forever, getting a close chance with The Fifth Element to explore his crazy imagination about eccentric aliens, complex megacities, and futuristic weapons and technology. And Valerian has all of that, plus exceptional visual effects and explosive world designs.
Valerian’s greatest strengths are in those effects and production designs. It is the kind of massive scale and flowing imagination that we only get once in a decade. But what Valerian sorely lacks is basically everything else that a movie needs: likeable characters, a strong narrative, solid writing, and cohesive pacing.
DeHaan and Delevigne share no chemistry with each other, a void that made me think their characters never had a relationship. The movie makes it worse by having one of the subplots being Valerian desperately wanting Laureline to marry him, making every exchange just an awkward lack of believable emotions or motivations.
The writing behind everything is either hodge-podge names for things, flat humour, or just plain boring exchanges and exposition about economics and social politics. I understand that most of this movie is meant to explore the expansive universe of the comics on film, but the actual narrative is just a messy slog that decreases the earnest ambition.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets honestly disappointed me. It could have been a fun space adventure like The Fifth Element, but Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets settles for sub-par storytelling, hammered home by mediocre acting, flat dialogue and half-baked themes. Gorgeous visuals do not instantly make a good movie.