Based on the French comic series Valérian and Laureline, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a wild and ambitious space opera brought to life by the flamboyant Luc Besson. In the 28th century, government agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are sent on an assignment to Alpha; an ever expanding metropolis in the middle of space. A dark and unknown force threatens the existence of this metropolis, which must be eliminated in a limited amount of time to save the millions of species residing in this space haven.
I’ve read a lot of criticism about this film so let me address some of these issues one by one. What you may have read about the lead actors, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne is absolutely true. They have no chemistry with one another. Their performances are wooden and devoid of any form of enthusiasm that is expected of such a film. Personally I don’t think Cara Delevingne is a good actress so her performance in this movie barely surprised me: she should’ve just stayed in the fashion world. In an alternate reality I would have swapped the lead actors with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence from Passengers. This would’ve given the film an injection of enthusiasm and talent that it so desperately needed.
Another major criticism behind Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is its convoluted plot. I agree with this too. There are way too many side plots that don’t converge well enough to create a cohesive storyline. This film deals with a lot of material: the relationship between Valérian and Laureline, explaining how the planet Alpha functions, explaining the history of an endangered species that is vital to the main story etc. It also doesn’t help that the two leads, Valérian and Laureline are also constantly sidetracked from their main mission by minor problems that could have been so easily avoided. As a result I felt quite zoned out during certain moments (especially near the end) because there was way too much going on.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets also feels long, which it shouldn’t because it only has a runtime of just over 120 minutes. This movie overstayed its welcome through its multiple side plots, adventures with Rihanna (who was just not needed) and massive exposition dumps that fail to stitch together a tightly knit plot. The humor also never worked for me. Luc Besson isn’t the sort of director that can write humor on the basis of what I witnessed here. There were so many Jar Jar Bink like characters and cringeworthy jokes about ludicrous situations such as sticking your head into a *****. The jokes didn’t match the overall tone of this film, which I assumed was going for a serious science fiction vibe.
Now let me move over to the other side of the aisle. What this film does have going for it is its excellent cinematography and world building. Over the 135 minutes, you are transported to multiple worlds that look nothing like one another. The design of Alpha was something I’ve never seen done to such a massive scale before. You really get the sense of how massive this metropolis is and the breadth of different species residing within it. I have to also give some props to Luc Besson for bringing the source material to life. His accomplishment in doing this resembles what Peter Jackson did over a decade prior to bring Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels to the big screen. If you get a chance, watch this movie on the biggest screen you can and in 3D because, if nothing else, you will enjoy the crisp and colorful universe that is being put out on display.
I cannot label Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets a success because it has so many problems with its screenplay and actors, as I have outlined above. But I can appreciate this movie for its visual aspects, specifically its world building, unique alien design and grand action sequences. That being said, don’t go into this movie expecting a well written story or great acting.