The Occasionally Fun Hit & Miss ‘Valerian’ makes for a bumpy ride

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a watchable and entertaining film, even quite memorable in parts but its style pushes the subjectivity of taste on the audience. There are very many appealing things in the movie, sci-fi aesthetics, 3D extravaganza, attractive babes, romance action suspense and mythology and how the movie applies those aspects places subjectivity of audience taste at the forefront. For me it is a fascinating world with many cool moments but a rudimentary storyline, the interplay is stiff but it is in high spirits.

Our title hero Valerian played by Dane Dehaan must have one hell of an agent to have landed the role of some reckless bad boy lady-killer because in the past he has only gotten the reckless part down (See Chronicle and The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Here he is out of his depth as he tries and fails to be a heart-throb as it all comes across so unbelievable and fake, but I’ve never liked his voice anyway. He seems aware of the character he is supposed to play but not the tone he is supposed to be in, but that might be the directors fault. Laureline played by Cara Delevingne fares a bit better as she seems to know to play to her strengths mainly look pretty and do some ass kicking in a sci-fi fantasy, there is not much character to her to convince the audience why Valerian might want her over all his other conquests but there’s so much other stuff going on in the movie that you aren’t often stuck wondering about one thing until the end demands you to.

The director has some inventive ideas put to good use in the form of its first action opener where an augmented reality tourist attraction has one of our heroes being chased while their hand is stuck in the transporter. Another has a burlesque performing Rihanna shape shift between fetishizing outfits that plenty of fans will appreciate. The whole movie succeeds at having you effortlessly believe this realized world without pouring through too much exposition. The visual presentation is cool and the overall package succeeds in a lot of ways that Jupiter Ascending failed although that is not a high bar to clear.

I anticipated the perceived weakness of the movie’s weirdness to work as a unique strength and it did, but what truly works against it is the overall save the endangered species from a perceived threat that drags the film down. It makes sense from a financiers perspective to tell a story that is palatable to audiences and that seems to be an inspired lesson director Luc Besson from James Cameron’s AVATAR, but its everything that we’ve seen before that lets the film down not its idiosyncrasies like I thought.

The City of a Thousand Planets is still a trip worth taking for some mild escapism and wild imagination, but in terms of the narrative which is the main reason I see movies it runs a little flat.


  • There’s a nice Taken reference for those who spot it
  • Robyn Fenty is good in small doses, so is Ethan Hawke
  • From the moment I saw the first trailer I correctly predicted a twist

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