Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Set in the 28th century, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets follows the exploits of Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), a pair of federal agents fighting crime throughout a visually remarkable universe including the titular City. This Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Lucy) rendering of the comic series-inspired world is stunning, to be sure, but it’s about the only good thing in the film. Perhaps if you can turn off the sound and just let the moving pictures flow over you, Valerian is better.

What mostly seems wrong with Valerian is the regrettable casting choices including the two leads; neither Ms. Delevingne nor Mr. DeHaan can act their way out of a paper bag, let alone carry an epic CGI sci-fi film.

There’s next to no exposition or explanation about what is going on – perhaps meant for the comic fans who already know the whole deal, including Mssr. Besson who has been laboring to bring this $200 million opus to life. Why is Herbie Hancock in charge? What does Clive Owen really want? Is that supposed to be romantic banter between the leads? Valerian seems to profess his love for Laureline at the beginning of the film when he has her pinned by the shoulder and works on winning her over until nearly the very last frame. Sigh. Violence isn’t love. Why is Ethan Hawke a pimp in this movie? Are there going to always be red light districts in all super-futuristic cityscapes?

We are left with lots of questions and little interest in the answers.

Really, really short review: It’s a lovely thing to look at, but Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets could use more brains and heart than facetime.

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