Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


Valerian is The Fifth Element for the 21st Century: louder, brighter and just as audacious and over-the-top but sadly, without the melodrama or memorable sequences (Rihanna doing a burlesque/pole dance does not top the diva dance opera...not even close). Nonetheless, it was a fun, rollicking, space adventure that zipped from one adventure to the next with exciting visuals that were neither terribly groundbreaking or innovative, and populated with characters that we never really cared about.

Besson's vision for Valerian was clear. A space opera spectacle that was grand in scope and epic in storytelling. He was successful on the first count, with an impressive CGI-ed world and aliens that could only be made possible now. However, the time spent in these alien worlds were too short to be fully immersive or appreciative. Most of the plot wound up in generic space sets that neither excites or wows.

And with regards to the second point, generously one could say that Besson tried to tell an epic story. Besson got too distracted by the romance/love-story between Valerian and Laureline that in the end, the narrative only served as background fodder. And yet, the love story itself was limpid and anaemic. Again, this was neither Avatar or The Fifth Element, but at least it was many steps up from Jupiter Ascending in terms of plot (the Wachowskis' had a more distinct and thrilling visual eye).

One of the biggest distraction in Valerian was Luc Besson's odd choice to case Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as the leads. Sure, the both of them were pretty and they do have some sort of screen chemistry, but yet they lacked a certain X-factor and screen gravitas to convincingly play action heroes or carry the film. Neither were as magnetic or enigmatic or The Fifth Element's Bruce Willis and Milla Johovich. Valerian is unlikely to launch Delevingne's career like The Fifth Element did for Johovich, although she might have a career out of sci-fi/action and in comedy. And DeHaan would still have a rather impressive indie career to fall back on.

At least we had Clive Owen chewing the scenery.

And thankfully RiRi was in just one (and a half) scene.

Alexandre Desplat scored the film, and except for certain quieter (less action-packed) moments and the closing credits, most of the score was just serviceable.

I would not mind more Adventures of Valerian and Laureline because I think there can be many great stories to tell about these two fascinating characters - even with DeHaan and Delevingne reprising the roles - as long as the focus is either on the story or them, and not both.

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