Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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***½ out of five stars

Based on the beloved French comic series created by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières, Valerian tells the tale of two young heroes caught in the middle of intergalactic political turmoil.

The headstrong Valerian (played by Dane DeHaan) and the sharp-witted Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are partners in Earth’s police force in the 28th century. One day, Valerian has a dream of a doomed planet of humanoid creatures. The next thing Valerian knows, he and Laureline get caught in a web of interplanetary intrigue. They travel to the space station of Alpha, where scores of different aliens from all over the galaxy co-exist. A series of events leads to them becoming involved with the Mül, who are the people from Valerian’s dream. The Mül are attempting to recreate their destroyed homeworld, but other forces attempt to erase them from history. Will Valerian and Laureline save the Mül from extinction?

Valerian is written and directed by Luc Besson, known for such films as The Professional and The Fifth Element. Valerian co-creator Mézières provided concept art for The Fifth Element, so Besson is a natural fit for the source material. The City of a Thousand Planets’ story was adapted from Ambassador of the Shadows, which was collected in the sixth Valerian graphic novel.

Valerian sports a decent yet somewhat muddled story that is enhanced by fantastic visuals. The plot has an anti-war theme somewhat similar to James Cameron’s Avatar. This is no surprise, as the original Valerian comics featured liberal political ideas. The film version of Valerian, however, is less heavy-handed in its message than something like Avatar. The only real downside to the story is when political jargon and space technobabble slow the action down.

The acting is quite good. DeHaan and Delevingne bring the lead characters to life in an appealing manner, and the supporting cast includes such highlights as Rihanna as the shapeshifting Bubble and voiceovers from John Goodman and Robbie Rist. Valerian and Laureline’s love-hate relationship compares favorably to that of Han Solo and Leia Organa in the original Star Wars trilogy. The actors manage to bring a good amount of humor to the proceedings but without turning the film into a farce.

Since the original Valerian comics debuted during the 1960s and ’70s, both they and this film adaptation reflected the science-fiction aesthetic of the time. The film looks like a mix of Barbarella and the original Star Wars, blended with the artwork of Jean “Moebius” Giraud. The digital sheen of CGI makes everything pop, using the colorful, almost cartoonish look as an advantage compared to other sci-fi epics in recent memory.

I have not read any of the original Valerian comics, but after watching this movie I certainly want to. While I did not view this movie in 3D, I have to imagine that doing so would only enhance its already top-notch visuals. So whether you’re familiar with Valerian or not, whether you choose 3D or not (I’d say go for 3D if you can), blast off to your galaxy’s closest movie theater and join the adventure.

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