Film Review – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

A close look at the poster for this film reveals the fact that there is a HELL OF A LOT OF STUFF going on here.

There’s a Terminator style robot that could be a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, but it is actually a K-Tron.

There’s an actor you might or might not recognise from TV, who plays his lead role like Mark Hamill with Keanu Reeves voice. Next to his head seems to be a small flying car. Hey look! There’s Rihanna! And Cara DeLevingne!

There’s a shiny thing and a small robot that got lost on his way home from a Star Wars prequel. There’s another Star Wars kind of monster with big teeth.

Hey, isn’t that Clive Owen….? He doesn’t look very happy.

There are some round things that might be pearls, or something else.

There’s a fan fiction drawing of the Millennium Falcon.

And there are three pistol packing platypuses standing at the bottom of the poster.

Despite eating too many noodles and enjoying one too many bottles of Asahi before the film, I was feeling generous about this poorly reviewed and commercially struggling beautifully bonkers Besson flick.

It started promisingly with an Avatar themed opening that established an idyllic planet where little yowie critters pooped out fuel for a race of tall exotic looking folks.

Then we learned about a top secret mission and there was some banter between the two leads who were maybe madly in love with each other and maybe not.

The first hour was a visually astonishing piece of filmmaking.

And then they made Ethan Hawke introduce a Rihanna music video where she dressed up in sexy fetish gear like white latex nurses uniforms and frilly French Maids costumes and tag teamed her stunt double to do some pole dancing.

At that point my generosity wore off and having been pulled completely out of this incredible visual universe, I dozed off as the rest of the film played out complete with a scene where Valerian and Laureline tumbled down a chute into a “trash compactor”.

Then the movie ran over time and out of money so they wrapped up with a James Bond style sex scene as the camera pulled away from a little port window on a small spacecraft and our heroes drifted off into oblivion mid tongue pash.

On the plus side this is a Luc Besson film so there are some good laughs, some breathtaking cinematography and an original (if often derivative and overly complex) story about alien tribes.

On the negative side I could not completely buy the relationship between the two leads. Clive Owen seemed extremely out of place and I have no idea why his character was motivated to do the things he did (I may have been asleep).

Again, the visuals are out of this world but in amongst the original blockbuster are the borrowed seeds of many a sci-fi film. Avatar, Alien, Star Wars, Total Recall and dozens more films seem overly familiar while watching Valerian, so it will be interesting if it manages to establish some kind of second life as cult film in the same league as Jupiter Ascending. To be fair to Besson, the comic book volumes of Valerian has been around for decades, so it is natural that they wield significant influence throughout the history of sci-fi films.

I watched in 3D which was a good idea at the start, but by the end of it my eyes had had enough.

“Visually Spectacular, Narratively Overwhelming.”  2.5 Stars.

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