Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets star ratings: 2.5
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Cast: Cara Delevingne, Dane DeHaan, Rihanna
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets movie director: Luc Besson
Inspired by a French science fiction comic series that has been around since 1967 and has inspired, among others, Star Wars and Besson’s own The Fifth Element, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has two fairly original and enjoyable lead actors, one great scene involving the third dimension, at least half a dozen interesting inter-galactic species — and lots of space and time it doesn’t know how to fill.
Apart from those two leads, played by DeHaan and Delevingne, it also doesn’t do any justice to any of its other actors. Be it Owen, reduced to the kind of showy military uniform that never comes to any good; a kohl-eyed Hawke, who will hopefully return if this film spawns into a series and especially Rihanna, who comes for just a jiggle and a juggle.
The film opens to humankind’s ever-growing exploration of the universe, portrayed over the years by the different species which enter the portals of a spaceship. By the year 2150, the spaceship itself has become big enough to pose danger, and is sent away out of Earth’s gravity and into outer space. This becomes Alpha, a city of a thousand planets where, the film says, more than 3,000 different species live and experiment in harmony. That is one of the welcome departures of this science fiction, where humans only encounter species harmless, if different, from them on other planets. In fact, as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets underlines at another point, there may be no species more dangerous than the one that looks back at us from the mirror.
In one of humankind’s misadventures, a planet that plays the price is Mul, where creatures clearly inspired by Avatar live in pearl-like luminosity. The cause of their boundless happiness, it appears, is a small dinosaur-like creature, later called ‘Converter’, who can replicate anything that is fed to it. In Mul’s case, that is pearls, which are a source of incredible energy. So Mul’s natives fish pearls out of the pristine seas that surround their spotless beaches, and feed some to the Converter, who reproduces more pearls to be given to the soil. It is supposed to be some nature-to-nature eco-preservation thing.
When Mul is destroyed, DeHaan’s Valerian gets into the picture. His partner is Laureline (Delevingne), and from the first scene where he proposes to her, the fate of their relationship is clear. DeHaan and Delevingne, however, make light of this incredibly light banter, and while the two are having fun, kicking ass at the ‘Big Market’ (a mall in third dimension holding all of the universe’s most coveted things), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is at its best.
But these moments of fun are brief, and Valerian and Laureline are dragged into a conspiratorial plot hatched by the clearly uninterested Owen. There is talk of genocide, references to “six million dead”, and some such. There is a lot of assertion about “working for the government”, and fingers in general are pointed at “the enemy”.
Outer space may be far, but clearly not far enough.