Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Capsule Review

Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets is a fantastical science fiction tale, brought to you by Luc Besson, who has made such films as The Fifth Element, Lucy, and The Professional. Valerian, as I will call it henceforth, is an adaptation of a French comic series, Valerian and Laureline, which ran from 1967 to 2010. I’m unfamiliar with the original material, and this was probably intended to be the start of a new movie series, but despite the amazing visuals and strong base story, it will probably exist alone.

Stone-faced acting and a near total lack of chemistry between the two leads lessens the excitement of the film. It’s sad because this could have been a greater movie.

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers)

The City of a Thousand Planets came to be when nations of Earth cooperated and created an international space station that everyone contributed to. As time went on, other worlds and species contributed to its growth over time.  This story takes place several hundred years beyond that,  and our story picks up from there.

Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are government agents. They’re tasked with confiscating a contraband device that’s being purchased by less-than-legal citizens.  This turn of events has major repercussions throughout known space, and causes a load of trouble for the City.

Stunning visuals abound, and are not part of this story. Repeated viewings will provide more detail on that front, but it makes for a lush movie experience. So many possibilities there. It’s a good story, regardless of what comes next in this review.

Valerian and Laureline work as a team, and it’s clear from the start that Valerian wants more. Laureline rebuffs him, but he doesn’t give up that easily. Here is the main problem with the film – these two just don’t work together, as a couple. I’m not convinced of the spark, and it’s as if they interact not because they want to, but because they must. Neither actor is very expressive in a way that tells me they like each other. While Cara Delevingne has very expressive eyes and eyebrows, it stops there. She’s like a joyless Christina Ricci, but without the intensity. Dane DeHaan is no better. I almost feel like someone shot their faces up with Botox before shooting the film, and their atonal acting just ruins it.  Yes, they say their lines about their attraction, but I’m not convinced. Not. One. Bit. More than anything else, it ruined my enjoyment of the movie. Rihanna is a scene stealer, but I won’t say more about her role.

As much as it pains me, I cannot recommend the film. If you really want to satisfy your curiosity, by all means, do so, but whatever medium you choose, definitely watch a high definition recording. It’s a very pretty movie.