When it comes to movies, many have experienced disappointments throughout the years; experiences that have since been swept under the carpet. Some filmmakers and actors have their hits, and their misses, as well. Released to mounds of anticipation on July 21, 2017 via STX Entertainment, unfortunately Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is one those disappointments that has severely stained the carpet.
For the record, it is extremely tough to criticize a widely respected, highly-decorated writer and director such as Luc Besson, the man in the director’s chair for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. It is a hard task because Besson is responsible for so many wonderful cinematic memories throughout his career.
Movies like 1997’s The Fifth Element—being the director’s best—and 1994’s The Professional have held up so well ’til this very day. Besson crafted movies full of likeable characters in various types of worlds, whether they were pitted within an Action film or in a Sci-Fi Adventure. Sadly, for a movie that Besson imagined making since he were a kid, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets probably should have been kept idling in his thoughts for a little while longer.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets starts off really strong and seems so very promising, showing many people and aliens of the universe coming together spanning over 400 years connecting space station to space station, forming one enormous city in the vast expanse of the galaxy. It is a symbol of peace, and is a place in which all life forms shall live together harmoniously. In a galaxy far, far away from the titular city, a planet called Mül, a peaceful-looking paradise inhabited by peaceful-looking beings, suffers complete devastation from falling spaceships of a battle happening above its atmosphere.
This ultimately wipes out the entire planet, and most of its people. Those that had survived the planet’s demise aboard a downed spaceship are now in search for a single energizing pearl that can bring back the planet Mül, and for the cute and cuddly, pink-furred rodent that produces this pearl. There is also some sort of “infection” happening within a restricted area of the city that needs eradicating, and some kind of a government cover-up. Unluckily for the Thousand Planets, there are two special “secret agents” on the job to help restore this “peace” within the system: Valerian and Laureline.
Valerian and Laureline are the worst humans this city of planets will ever see! These two are not only major brats, but they are very rude and also have a nasty attitude. Setting aside their poor manners, Valerian and Laureline are really good at their jobs. For instance, they cause trillions of dollars’ worth of damage to the city, breaking through walls and floors of each connected station/planet, just to get the job done.
Valerian and Laureline also enjoy showing how much they care about the city while kicking little, helpless alien animals out of the way in their spare time; stealing from underwater alien creatures, disrupting their peace and harmony in the midst of it all, and causing havoc as well as chaos to the peace of the city without even so much as batting an eye. These two also enjoy not saving any of their comrades from a gigantic alien in pursuit of its human lunch during a botched seek-and-collect mission. What a duo!
Dane Dehaan (The Amazing Spider-Man 2 2014, A Cure For Wellness 2017) stars as Valerian, while Fashion Model/Actress Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns 2015, Suicide Squad 2016) stars as Laureline. Neither of these two actors are all that charismatic. There is also this love-interest-thing happening between Valerian and Laureline that is not believable. Dehaan, for now, is no action hero—not yet, at least. His Valerian is not an easy character to watch, and although Delevingne is equally challenged, she practically carries the whole film.
Clive Owen (Children Of Men 2006, Inside Man 2006) stars as commander Arün Filitt, and collected a quick paycheck for possibly three days worth of work. Popstar Rihanna makes an appearance as a dancer named Bubbles, which is a shape-changing alien; but can be overlooked. Ethan Hawke (Training Day 2001, Before Sunset 2004) stars as some kind of pimp, while Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner 1982, The Hitcher 1986), in one scene dedicated to his role, stars as the president of the world federation, and seems the only human actor that took acting seriously in this movie.
All this said, there is one particular CGI character worth mentioning: Igon Sirrus, a leader of sorts within the black market that holds the aforementioned pearl and critter. Sirrus’ voice-over work is done by the great John Goodman (Roseanne series, Cloverfield Lane 2016), who does an impeccable job giving the only solid, emotional-filled performance in the entire movie…with just his voice.
In the defense of a great director such as Besso, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is not all that bad; there are a few things about the film that might stand out to most people. The top-notch CGI effects, for one, which, in certain opinions, are always best when used only as backdrops; and since this city is an amalgamation of a thousand planets, these CGI effects come in handy, and are quite an amazing sight to see. It will also be very easy to get lost while staring off into Besson’s vision of outer space on the big-screen. This city of planets, however, along with all the aliens living within it, has more soul, more heart, and is far more interesting than any of the storyline, or any of the humans, for that matter.
The thing is, the story idea for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is incredibly massive, and there is a lot going on. The CGI-infested scenery helps bring Besson’s vision to life, but the overall result of the movie does it no justice. What is presented to moviegoers, instead, is a race of unlikeable humans that all deserve to be kicked out of the city and locked-up in solitary confinement.
Besson’s The Fifth Element is one the greatest romance movies ever made, which was also disguised as a Sci-Fi/Action yarn. It starred a wonderful Bruce Willis, a lovable Chris Tucker, and a sweet and charming Milla Jovovich, all pulling together to make an almost believable and very fun film. To compare The Fifth Element to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets would be a disservice.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets does not have any of the heart, nor any of the romance that made The Fifth Element feel so alive. As a matter of fact, there is not one lovable character in the film, whatsoever. Although this is just one unfavorable opinion of Besson’s most recent work, there is still hope he will follow Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets with something that shows his talents better. As a result, it is with great displeasure to give this movie 2.5 out of 5 stars.