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Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand PlanetsDid you know that “mediocre” is a French word? It’s true! And it’s a good thing too, because now they should have no problem describing the most expensive film they’ve ever made, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

A thousand yawns might be a more appropriate title for this highly ambitious and beautifully designed movie, that is somehow still mostly boring and nonsensical. Maybe this film will play better, culturally, in France or other spots around the globe, but I don’t think Trump’s America is going to get it (I know I didn’t, and I’ve even been considering moving to France.)

This fairly standard space-fantasy shindig is based on the 50-year old French comic-book series, Valerian and Laureline, by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres, and it is adapted for the big-screen by French writer/director, Luc Besson, who is well known for The Fifth Element (1997), Leon: The Professional (1994), and La Femme Nikita (1990).

Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are “Spatio-Temporal Agents” for some futuristic defense organization. They are dimension-hopping, time-traveling, ray-gun blasting do-gooders on a mission to save an honorable and peaceful alien race that can only live if a sacred creature they worship is fed uranium pearls that make it poop out some sort of life-sustaining energy pellets.

Yes, you read that right… poops out life-sustaining energy pellets. (I did say this was a French film, right?)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand PlanetsSpace-opera shenanigans ensue and there’s a little bit of something to appease every audience member in this movie – it’s just that very little of it is exciting. There is a spark missing that is hard to put your finger on and the narrative struggles desperately hard to be fun.

Valerian also stars Clive Owen as a military commander; Rutger Hauer as a planetary politician of some sort; Ethan Hawke as… I don’t even know exactly what he’s supposed to be; Rihanna as a shape-shifting alien; and musician Herbie Hancock (of all people) as the Defense Minister.

This film does have its moments, visually, but there is almost no chemistry between its lead actors and I don’t think I laughed once, despite its heavy-handed attempts at humor. There is too much going on and it all makes too little sense.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets proves once again that special effects and style alone do not necessarily make a great film; but if they did, this would be one heck of a movie. Grade: 5.5/10

Photos copyright © 2017 STX Entertainment

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.