VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Director: Luc Besson
Screenwriter: Luc Besson, based on the Valerian and Laureline comic books by Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin.
Runtime: 137 mins.
Australian release date: 10 August 2017
Previewed at: Sony Pictures Theatrette, Sydney, on 8 August 2017.
Based on the 1960s French comic book series Valerian and Laureline and backed by a whopping US$180million budget, Luc Besson has created a space fantasy that is quite ‘out of this world,’ Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets. The film fittingly opens to the strains of David Bowie’s Space Oddity as, over the years, a group of astronauts are seen welcoming, first, other humans, and later, various species of aliens to their domain, a massive, ever-expanding space station called Alpha. Ultimately we arrive in the 28th century when Special Operatives are engaged to maintain order through the vast territory which is now inhabited by a diverse multi-ethnic mixture of extraterrestrials - some of whom live in watery or gaseous realms - and humans. It’s a beacon of peace that shines throughout the universes, known to all as the City of a Thousand Planets.
Meanwhile, on a sun-drenched planet somewhere in one of those universes, a group of aliens - the Pearl creatures, who resemble mother-of-pearl hued Masai warriors - are living in harmony with nature, harvesting huge pearls that provide them with an unending energy source, when their idyll is interrupted by a crashing spaceship. Simultaneously, somewhere else in space, two Special Operative personnel, Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne), are sent on a mission to retrieve the last remaining Mül Converter, a cute little animal with miraculous powers. Back on Alpha, they are tasked with protecting Commander Arun Filitt (Clive Owen) by his boss, the Defence Minister (Herbie Hancock), because Filitt is attempting to make contact with a mysterious ‘dead zone’ in the centre of the city and he needs the Converter to do it. Their ensuing adventures include a crazy meeting with a shape-shifting artiste named Bubble (Rihanna), who works for Jolly the Pimp (Ethan Hawke). Both roles that make you realise just how versatile the singer is and what a chameleon Hawke is.
Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets is a mixed bag that includes a bit of Star Wars here, a dash of Avatar there, a dollop of Guardians Of The Galaxy and a sprinkle of Flash Gordon. As such it doesn’t really break any new territory but it does have its moments and is highly watchable in parts, especially the plentiful and incredibly varied alien characters. However, the plot is too drawn out at 137 minutes and loses its way about half-way through. Alexandre Desplat’s soundtrack signals the expected emotional response a little too eagerly in places and there is an unnecessary use of hand-held camera in much of the film. The attractive leads, DeHaan and Delevingne, lack chemistry too, which is a shame given that there is supposed to be an erotic charge between the two. Having said that, it will probably give Delevingne’s career a boost as she’s improved a great deal since last year’s Suicide Squad. As Major Tom sings in the beginning, “…take your protein pills and put your helmet on…” for Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets takes you on a ride into another cosmos, “…far above the world…” which is sometimes a nice break from reality.