Valerian and the city of a thousand planets (2017)
A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.
Genre : SF
Country : France/China/Belgium/Germany/USA
Dane DeHaan : Major Valerian
Cara Delevingne : Sergeant Laureline
Clive Owen : Commander Arun Filitt
My opinion on “Valerian and the city of a thousand planets”
“It’s our mission that doesn’t make sense, sir.”
After watching “Valerian and the City of a thousand planets” I can imagine how someone sees his surroundings while being under the influence of psychedelics. This SF-opera based on a comic is a cacophony of surrealistic and grotesque images from an immeasurable universe where all sorts of extraterrestrials make their appearance. Believe me, it really didn’t take long before I realized I no longer knew what it was about. The only thing left for me was to lay down in my cozy couch and marvel at the spectacle Luc Besson fabricated.
Visually, this SF is really overwhelming. Color tones splashing off the screen. And an infinite collection of aliens. Already during the opening scene you get a concatenation of delegations arriving at the space station Alpha. Then the spectacle moves to the planet Mül inhabited by a peaceful civilization whose daily life consists of strolling over idyllic-looking beaches with a deep blue ocean and producing magical spheres which have an unseen power. The image of a sensual extraterrestrial beauty (who wouldn’t look bad on the centerfold of an alien nude magazine) is in stark contrast with the images of destruction of this planet afterwards. And so it goes from a virtual market in a cork-dry desert, with a trillion bazaars and shops you can only see and touch with the help of a special helmet and gloves, to the bizarre space station Alpha. A place with more than 3000 life forms living in different territories, each with their own specific characteristics and expertise.
A lot happens around a simple storyline.
I don’t know how many parts there are from the French comic book Valerian, but it seems as if Besson attempted to put the entire series in one film. The different characters and side-plots follow each other with a breathtaking speed. In such a way that you go from one surprise to the next. Perhaps the aim is to use this oversupply together with the sensational visual material, to divert our attention from the simple storyline. The story itself is far from impressive. I’m not a connoisseur when it comes to the stories about Valerian. That’s why I thought it was rather confusing after a while. The storyline remained disappointingly minimalistic, despite the huge budget.
Willy and Wanda save the universe.
The biggest mistake Besson surely made, was the choice of actors responsible for the roles of Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline. Was it the intention to create cartoonish characters? Well, he succeeded in that. For the rest, I thought they were annoying and childish and they didn’t have the looks of real heroes. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne look like two minors who ended up in a loaded, mature story. A sort of Willy and Wanda saving the universe. That’s why the so-called romantic part, full of flirtation and nonsense about commitments and being faithful, doesn’t come across as credible. I’m not claiming that they are bad actors because DeHaan was formidable in “A cure for Welness“. And Delevingne’s interpretation in “Paper Towns” was of a different caliber.
A flood of titillating images.
“Valerian” looks like a mishmash of fragments taken from other large-scale SF epics. Everyone will notice something that looks familiar to him. It sometimes looks like a futuristic painting full of bombastic elements. The images vary from “Star Wars“-like to that of a PC game. The view of the planet Mül, for example, resembled that of what I saw in “Myst”. An old PC adventure game I used to play ages ago. But titillating images aren’t good enough to call a film successful. You can compare “Valerian and the city of a Thousand Planets” with an amusement park with an abundance of attractions. It’s fun to be there and you’re trying to do as much as possible, but afterwards you’re stuck with a feeling of disappointment because you haven’t been able to fully experience it all. And this thanks to the overwhelming (and exagerated) number of activities.