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Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu and Rutger Hauer
Director: Luc Besson
Luc Besson
Certificate: 12A
Running time: 137 mins
Opens 04 August 2017 (UK), 21 July 2017 (US)

Hands up confession; I’m a HUGE Besson fangirl I cannot get enough of his aesthetic and on that score Valerian delivered in spades. It is as visually dazzling as you would expect and mostly holds its own against the inevitable The Fifth Element comparisons.

Review imageThe world building is impressive and, aside from one clunky and pointless segment upon the initial arrival at Alpha (the “city of a thousand planets” of the title), there is very little in the way of exposition. Every frame and every encounter raises a multitude of questions “who are they..? what does that do…? Why is that…? Very few of which are answered. To me this is the film’s greatest strength and what may help it find a welcoming niche amongst fans.

Unfortunately this splendid alien cornucopia is let down by the human element.

I haven’t read the comics on which this film is based but once the credits rolled and I learnt they were called “Valerian and Laureline” a few things made a bit more sense. I couldn’t fathom why this film was called “Valerian” when the protagonist with whom our attention and favour lies throughout was not Valerian but his partner Laureline, played by Cara Delevingne.

Review imageHer portrayal of the exasperated and competent foil to Dean DeHaan’s frustrating Valerian keeps the film afloat. He is exceptionally annoying. The high regard in which he’s apparently held by his superiors, Laureline and everyone else he encounters seems laughable. Perhaps a different actor could have made this role more credible but it was like watching Jay from The Inbetweeners play James Bond.

It’s ironic that so much was made of the “celebrity casting” of the film yet for me the weakest link proved to be its experienced lead.

A quick note on Rhianna’s extended cameo; it’s entirely unnecessary, mildly irritating and logically flawed but she does look gorgeous which I’m sure was the point.

Review imageAlthough Delevingne acquits herself much better than DeHaan (and significantly better than the Internet expected her to) the palpable lack of chemistry between them makes the constant and unnecessary romantic plot even more grating... which was no mean feat. When they kiss at the end it was all I could do not to shout “YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT CLOWN” at the screen. Especially since five minutes previously the day was saved - hurrah - and Valerian gets the credit for it although it's Laureline's doing. Honestly you probably heard my eyes rolling from there.

In short, if you’re looking for a new The Fifth Element you will be massively disappointed, if you’re looking for a two hours of visual wonder with a fluffy plot and a few chuckles then you could do a lot worse.


Lizzie Biscuits

Screen shot

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