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A silly space opera: Review of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Too many bells and whistles, too little plot... it feels odd to say it, but this Luc Besson sci-fi movie just doesn’t work.

movie reviews Updated: Jul 27, 2017 14:12 IST
Rashid Irani
It doesn’t help that the lead pair has zero chemistry. A legendary filmmaker and a project he’s always dreamed of doing... the result should have been spectacular. This is a missed opportunity for Besson and his team.
It doesn’t help that the lead pair has zero chemistry. A legendary filmmaker and a project he’s always dreamed of doing... the result should have been spectacular. This is a missed opportunity for Besson and his team.
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
  • Direction: Luc Besson
  • Actors: Cara Delevingne, Dane DeHaan
  • Rating: 1.5 / 5

His imagination birthed such sci-fi adventures as The Last Battle (the wordless black-and-white debut feature, 1983), The Fifth Element (1997) and Lucy (2014).

With Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, French producer-writer-director Luc Besson realises a lifelong dream of adapting the popular comic-book series written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mezieres.

The outcome is awash in neo-pop colours, peopled by a host of kooky humans and otherworldly creatures. There’s some stunning cinematography courtesy frequent collaborator Thierry Arbogast. But the narrative is weak and the film is weighted down by conceptual overindulgence. Things spiral out of control long before the long-drawn-out climax.

A centuries-spanning prologue sees generations of intergalactic voyagers and extraterrestrials link up at an international space station (while David Bowie’s ‘Major Tom’ plays in the background). The viewer is then transported to the 28th century, when a race of genial humanoids is almost wiped out by unseen malevolent forces.

The film is awash in neo-pop colours, peopled by a host of otherworldly creatures. But the plot goes nowhere, and has little to offer other than a ham-fisted message about the power of love.

It’s up to a couple of government agents (Cara Delevingne - Dane DeHaan) to ensure that peace is restored to their beauteous realm and normalcy returns to the cosmos.

The ham-fisted message about the pervasive power of love wouldn’t have been out of place in a Bollywood potboiler.

It doesn’t help that there is zero chemistry between the two supposedly-made-for-each-other leads. Their banter is barmy. Occasional attempts at humour are borderline camp. Even the antics of a trio of mercenary duckbilled aliens quickly devolve into tedium.

Thankfully, the supporting cast liven things up a bit. The estimable Ethan Hawke is a hoot as an outer-space pimp. Pop-star Rihanna almost steals the show as a shape shifting singer-cum-stripper. And jazz legend Herbie Hancock appears at regular intervals as the holographically beamed defense minister.

All in all, though, Besson woefully overdoes the showiness. Valerian… is a missed opportunity.