Director/screenwriter Luc Besson excels at creating these vast, quirky, juxtaposed worlds which showcase the wonder of his expansive imagination whilst never forcing us to entirely abandon the familiar. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets certainly has that homely charm wrapped-in-the-spectacular vibe.
As with The Fifth Element he’s brought this (French comic book) universe to vibrant, cinematic life and it really is awesome spending time getting to know it. The world is rich and engrossing and I for one would gladly revisit it over and over, however I’m not certain this particular glimpse is really cohesive enough in either story or character to get many seriously invested.
In this this cosmopolitan version of outer space, Alpha (the titular city of a thousand planets) is a vast space station started by humanity and built upon by thousands of sentient races invested in peaceful co-existence and mutual beneficence. At its heart is a dark secret that threatens the status quo; would-be lovers, agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are tasked with unraveling it.
The interplay between the two leads is (just) charming enough on the surface but falls down when the two of them have a moment to dig a little deeper into their relationship, which is disappointing since it’s the primary dynamic of the film.
I can’t help but feel that the movie would have been better served by rather dancing around the romance instead of plunging the narrative head first into it.
Whilst the main plot comes together serviceably at the end, some parts don’t really make sense and it takes perhaps a few too many detours* to show off the (albeit remarkable) world when it would be better served keeping an eye on where it’s going.
That said, the visual thrills and awesome world are engrossing enough to warrant the price of admission. Go see it, discarding the narrative inconsistencies and revel in the wonder.
Valerian and the City of a thousand planets, written and directed by Luc Besson opens July 21 Nationwide.
*Rihanna is awful and pointless… in this movie