Cert: 12A Runtime: 137 mins Director: Luc Besson Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Herbie Hancock, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Kris Wu and Rutger Hauer
Rules are rules and this is a place where we make love, not war.
Luc Besson has been besotted with Valerian and Laureline for many years. It has been an ambition for him to make an official film for years. The Fifth Element his 1997 hit was the un-official homage to this famous French comic book. Valerian was that impactful even George Lucas used some references in Star Wars. Besson went to great lengths to get this film made it was independently financed at a huge $200 million! It has bombed in the USA over that last few weeks, but will it bode better in Europe? and what is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets about? In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. The two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha—an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the centre of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of Alpha, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.
Luc Besson’s Valerian is gorgeous to look at, you can see how much work went into the aesthetic of Valerian. In a time where nearly every blockbuster features tons of CGI, Valerian stands out and highlights how cheaply the effects are done in most of the others. The sheer inventiveness of the designers, artists, set builders, wardrobe and makeup – again, makes us painfully realise how off-the-rack and dull most blockbusters are. Add to that Besson’s quirky aesthetics and you’re in a world that’s nearly overpowering you with its inventiveness, its visual splendour, and also plain fun. I mean, a movie where a Jessica Rabbit cameo doesn’t feel forced or out of place, that’s just unique. The optical fireworks are a bit overdone, some scenes were plainly set up in a certain way to make them more spectacular but didn’t really add to the story – an early on action sequence in a half-virtual market comes to mind that would work nearly equally well in a normal bazaar, just without some gags.
The story and screenplay is a real world builder, Besson hasn’t rushed through this film. We get a real feeling for the universe and the species. The film flows very nicely and it captivated me. I can see why some people don’t like Valerian. It doesn’t follow the conventional formula most massive studio movies follow (some people like to conform). The characters, Valerian and Laureline: Dane DeHaan pulls off this role rather well IMO, he has a very French attitude towards everything. I can see why Besson cast him. Cara Delevingne is perfectly cast, standing her ground with just the right amount of sarcasm and spunk. Valerian the one who tends to stick to the rules and play by book while Laureline tends to act more impulsively – but both working together really well, be it as a duo or solo. There is a romance angle in the movie that was not taken from the books (from what I understand) and feels a bit forced, thankfully it stays marginal and doesn’t lessen the overall enjoyment. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the Space Opera I have been waiting for. Ignore the majority and form your own opinion about Besson’s work.