Story : Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify a dark force which threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets.
Review : Valerian is a French sci-fi comic book series from the late 60’s that became iconic in European pop culture. It has influenced various science fiction films including the Star Wars series, and Luc Besson’s previous films like ‘The Fifth Element’. It’s obvious that Besson has grown up reading these comics, making this film a passion project. The question is – how does that translate on screen, and more importantly to an international audience who isn’t quite familiar with this series?
Besson is skilled at creating visually arresting worlds, colourful characters and stunning action that give all the photoreceptors in your eyes a thorough workout. However, that comes at the expense of your brain cells during Valerian’s lengthy run time. In fact, some of the sequences exist solely for the purpose of extravagance. Lost in the midst of the optical commotion is actually a pretty decent story that sadly takes a backseat. Since the focus is on all the complex CGI, it allows for little connect with the narrative revolving around Valerian and Laureline, played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevigne respectively. We’ve seen the former bring depth to intricate characters in the past while Delevigne hasn’t exactly impressed in her previous outings, but here the roles seem to be reversed. DeHaan is largely going through the motions and sorely lacks the charisma needed to pull off the roguish yet lovable hero, while Delevigne appears to be better suited to the strong woman persona – a Besson trademark.
A case could be made for a better lead pair lending to a better film. But Valerian sees Luc Besson playing with the latest CGI technology like a child in a toy store. The audience is left with ocular diabetes and hardly any savoury storytelling – an essential ingredient that turned some of his films like La Femme Nikita & Léon: The Professional into cult classics. Nevertheless; the visual sugar-high never killed anyone, and as far as escapist blockbusters go, Valerian and The City of A Thousand Planets is as imaginative and spectacular as they come. Just keep your mind switched off and put your 3D glasses on.