‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ Review: Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

FIRST IMPRESSION

'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets' will appeal only to the biggest science fiction fans.
Acting
Direction
Writing
Special Effects
Cinematography

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has plenty of eye-popping visuals but is weighed down by lackluster performances.

Summary

The film is set in the future and follows the adventures of agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne). From the first moment these two are on screen, writer/director Luc Besson tries to convince us these two have some chemistry.However, what transpires amounts to nothing more than painful banter. Valerian is a womanizer, and Laureline knows this. Both are assigned a critical recovery mission that involves Valerian sneaking into an interdimensional market place to recover what’s labeled as “government property.” This leads them to space station Alpha which houses citizens from thousands of planets and holds a deeper secret that could threaten their existence.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

What Worked

Besson has once again constructed a science fiction dreamscape rich in color and intricate detail. From the multi color palette used to visually create space station Alpha to the interdimensional market, this film is a feast for the eyes. It’s as if he took the special effects from The Fifth Element and pumped them with steroids. Fans of Science Fiction will gush about how bold and beautiful the movie looks.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

How could you not love the diversity of the aliens in the film? Each life form on space station Alpha has their unique look that matches their personality.

Ethan Hawke and Rhianna each have small parts in the film and quickly stole the scenes they were in. Hawke’s portrayal of an intergalactic burlesque show owner was enjoyable. Rhianna was surprising as the shape shifting alien who plays a pivotal role in saving our favorite government agents.

What Didn’t Work

The storyline for the film meanders between this love story and a possible conspiracy deep in the heart of a government run space station. Neither is given the proper time to develop as the film unfolds. There is no suspense or intrigue in this science fiction blockbuster.

Delevingne proved once more how lifeless she could be on screen. Apparently, film executives excused her work in Suicide Squad, which brought the narrative to a screeching halt. She exudes no charisma on screen and has no chemistry with her co-star.

DeHaan performance was a cross between Keanu Reeves with a dash of Owen Wilson. Anytime his character had to go through an intense action sequence it was as if Johnny Utah himself had been cast in the film. When the narrative pivoted towards romance, he then began to sound slightly like Wilson from any number of his films. This overacting added some unexpected moments of comedy in an otherwise dull story.

Overall

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the kind of film that will divide critics. It’s even divided the crew at Monkeys Fighting Robots. Matthew Sardo and Ej Moreno liked it, and I have my issues with it. Should people go and see this film? Well, it depends on what your endgame is when you go to the movies. If your goal is to see something that’s lacking in substance but will blow audiences away with its special effects, then certainly this film is for you. If your goal is to watch something that has more to it, then this one is definite miss.

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Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.

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