‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ couldn’t live up to the films it pays homage to. The sci-fi romp tries to do too much with too little, and pays the price. Read our ‘Valerian’ review for more on Cara Delevigne and Dane DeHaan’s disappointing new film.
Luc Besson‘s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is pretty, and that’s pretty much it. The visuals are stunning, but there’s no substance in this sci-fi adventure that can’t quite decide what it wants to be. Is it an action movie? Is it a war drama? Comedy? Epic romance? Avatar? Star Wars? There’s a little bit of everything in Valerian, but instead of forming something well-rounded, it’s incohesive. Beautiful visual effects cannot save what’s not there.
Valerian opens with a sequence set to David Bowie‘s “Space Oddity” in which leaders of planets across the galaxy meet on a space station and wordlessly shake hands. Though it’s probably two minutes long, it’s exhaustive. We then flash forward about 400 years to an idyllic planet inhabited by luminescent blue aliens. The peaceful people spend their time harvesting glowing pearls from the earth and twirling in the sunshine (there’s a lot of twirling). Our main focus is Princess Lihö-Minaa (model Sasha Luss). Tragedy befalls the princess and her people, and their happy world is forever marred.
We again transition, this time to human federal agents Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne). They’re on a dire mission involving Lihö-Minaa’s world that leads them to Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets. Alpha is where millions of people of all different planets, species and kinds live and work together, albeit not always peacefully. It’s a machine manned by military and…some other people? Listen, nothing is clear in this movie. Except Rihanna, who’s literally clear.
Perhaps the main problem with the film is the non-existant chemistry between Valerian and Laureline. The co-agents are also lovers, as the film repeatedly insists. The issue is that it’s all tell, and not show. Though Valerian constantly (and casually) tells Laureline how he feels, there’s nothing that indicates that this will-they, won’t-they relationship has any merit. Laureline is constantly rebuking Valerine’s advances in a way that’s supposed to be playful. But Delevingne’s monotone line readings, no matter the situation her character is in (including multiple near-death situations), makes Laureline seem constantly bored instead of coy.
It doesn’t help that the dialogue is painful. “We’re here for a noble cause.” “I’m here for a noble cause: the law. You’re under arrest.” Valerian spends the majority of the movie breaking the law for a righteous cause, then pulls Laureline aside to deliver a monologue about how he respects the law above all else. What? So, how did Rihanna do? Decent! Playing a shape-shifting stripper named Bubble, she does deliver an awkward performance. Her line reading is flat and stilted, but it’s not make-or-break. There’s plenty more to focus on than the Battleship star.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets hits theaters on July 21, 2017.
HollywoodLifers, are you going to see Valerian? Let us know what you think!