A vibrant yet ultimately messy sci-fi caper.
When entering into the realms of sci-fi, and more specifically the space opera, one can’t help but look past the names of Star Wars and Star Trek. Such established properties are the cornerstone of the genre and when a new property is transferred to the big screen it’s hard not to make the initial comparisons with these iconic names. Such is the issue with Luc Besson’s transfer of the popular 60s French comic series that helps to forge Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets; while it feels vibrant and there is much going on, it feels like it is trying to recreate much of what we’ve already seen before and all feels too messy.
In the 28th Century, agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) travel through the galaxy to restore peace and order in the areas populated by humans. Through their bravery and combat knowledge they are able to thwart any potential threats with their strong teamwork, but when a threat arises to Alpha, a metropolis of multiple beings that is ever-expanding, they must tackle something bigger than they ever have done in the past.
Valerian is one of the most expansive recent science-fiction movies you’ll find, with its multiple species scenario resulting in Luc Lesson looking to create on screen a glorious vision of a future littered with a variety of alien races, communities and so much more. Essentially, Valerian feels like a massive extension upon the world he created in The Fifth Element, but it all feels rather lacklustre and, at times, a little underwhelming visually. While looking to wow with a barrage of vibrant and striking imagery, Besson actually forgets about the pacing of his film, with Valerian all too often feeling like it’s been sped up in terms of character development and getting to its core story arc. It all feels like one big mess, even if it is sometimes a beautiful mess.
While the direction seems to be all over the place, Valerian does prosper in its leading duo, Delevingne and DeHaan, who possess a real rapport with one another throughout and are likeable enough heroes, but they certainly deserve much more than they are given. Fleeting performances from the likes of Clive Owen and Rihanna are average at best, but without its core duo the film would certainly falter even further.
Running at a breakneck speed and not quite matching up to the big guns of sci-fi, Valerian often feels like it is trying to be this age’s Avatar, but it never quite hits the dizzying heights of James Cameron’s game-changer. Delevingne is in her best performance yet, DeHaan remains a draw and sci-fi once again feels like it has a film that doesn’t quite match up to those it has seen dominate many moons ago.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now.