Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is being premiered tonight at Fantasia before coming to a theater near you this July 21st.
Valerian is adapted, in English, by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The professional) based upon French Sci-fi comic book Valérian and Laureline series (authored by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières) that ran from 1967 until 2010.
In the 28th century, Valerian and Laureline, a team of special agents traveling trough time and space, are on a mission, to find and deliver some goods everyone is after, into the heart of the space city of Alpha where a dark force (with a past) threatens the city of a thousand planets.
An obvious influence on various Sci-fi giants from Star Wars to Besson’s own Fifth Element, the choice of Christin and Mézières work as valuable material for a big screen adaptation makes sense. And Valerian is a volcano of erupting ideas spreading all over the place. It is what makes it a variably entertaining production in which there is plenty to see, with its stylish settings, bright colors and strange creatures, but not enough to make up for its various shortcomings.
The lack of overall discipline, screenplay-wise, keeps it from really taking off dramatically, especially since the dialogues ( the would be humor) are not funny at all. This surely doesn’t help the male lead, Dane DeHaan (Knight of Cups, A Cure for Wellness), who’s contract fees obviously didn’t include that he bring any charisma. Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad) is doing better as Laureline but nothing to scream Oscar Country. There is a supporting cast of near cameo performances from Clive Owen, Rihanna (!!!), Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer et Al. But they seem to wonder what the film is about.
The best roles in Valerian are digital. These Guys at Weta Digital and ILM earned their pay check. They produced, among numerous creatures, some evil robots, cutie animals and a trio of sympathetic scoundrels ready to sell any information… twice. They all make DeHaan performance more shameful.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a beautiful object trying to expand its one line synopsis over a two hours plus running time that leads to an abrupt ending. It doesn’t fully live to its build up.