Based on the French comics that influenced numerous movies including Star Wars, Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets is a space adventure written and directed by Luc Besson, who made the visually stunning sci-fi movie The Fifth Element.
Here, he once again throws the weird and wonderful onto the screen – numerous alien species, inventive spacecraft and rainbow-coloured creatures among them – but seems to have spent less time on an original plot or any characterisation.
As a fun prologue (set, of course, to David Bowie’s Space Oddity) tells us, over centuries the International Space Station has been added to like a giant LEGO set as new worlds have been discovered and visiting aliens have attached their spaceships to it to create a new world named Alpha, a city of 1000 planets with its residents all living in apparent harmony.
Police special agents Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) are sent there after their most recent mission to retrieve a special creature called a converter. They are told by their commander, Filitt (Owen), that part of the space station has been infected by an unknown force, and he needs their protection while they investigate just which species is to blame. But could what is happening at the station have anything to do with a strange dream Valerian has had, of the destruction of a peaceful race living on an idyllic planet?
Visually, this contains some jaw-dropping moments – the tropical paradise planet is beautiful, there are some truly quirky creatures and memorable set pieces such as the feeding ceremony of a particularly unlikeable alien – but sometimes they come at the expense of the movie’s pacing. An early adventure in a street market that appears in a separate dimension goes on for ages, while the scene that introduces singer Rihanna as a shape-shifting entertainer called Bubble is pretty unnecessary (though possibly titillating for older viewers).
The other problem in this rather muddled adventure is the characters. An experienced moviegoer will spot the baddie/twist within minutes, while the two leads are given very little to work with so it is hard to care very much about their adventures. DeHaan, usually seen in darker, performance-led movies, is miscast as the cocky agent – the role required someone with a lighter, comic touch – while Delevingne shows promise but isn’t given much to work with as his partner. Their possible romance is even less developed, leading to a finale that will remind adults of the end scene of Moonraker (and not in a good way).
It all feels like a mish-mash of other movies, from Avatar to Star Wars, and while kids may enjoy the forgettable space adventure, grown-ups will just find themselves reminded of classic sci-fi movies that have gone before and were much better.
Is Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is a 12A film in the UK (PG-13 in the US) and is aimed at older kids and adults.
Rihanna is shown as an entertainer who can shape shift and she performs an erotic dance that is quite racy, and infers that she works as a prostitute.
Early in the movie, a planet is attacked and younger viewers may be upset to see the inhabitants fleeing for their lives.
The characters are often in danger, and there are fist fights and shootings throughout.
There is some bad language.
Younger viewers may find some of the alien species frightening to look at.
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