Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

ho00004402Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delavingne) are elite operatives given the important task of recovering the last of its species from black market dealers, only to find themselves embroiled in a mystery about the destruction of a planet and the future of an entire species in this spectacular looking science fiction romp. Unfortunately whilst it excels in visual flourishes there are a number of issues that stymie your enjoyment.

Knowing that this is written and directed by Luc Besson might put you someway towards understanding the tone and look of this film. I will admit up front that the only one of his films that I enjoy and return to is Leon. I am no fan of his other films, including The Fifth Element, which this is a spiritual successor to, right down to hiring a model as the female lead who can not act.

So lets talk about what is great about this film, the visuals and vast science fiction world. This film is utterly breathtaking to look at. Truly alien worlds, varied alien races and great ideas. The largest market in the world which can only be seen through special equipment as it is in another dimension, a space station that has grown from small beginnings to a bustling metropolis and memory eating jellyfish! And as far as acting honours go, whilst slim pickings I have to pick out Ethan Hawke in an utterly brilliant but very small cameo as a sleazy club owner.

The problem is that all of the above can be outweighed quite significantly by the fact that the plot is essentially a very basic skeleton to propel us between set pieces. And those set pieces are not diverting enough to stop you realising how boring the whole thing is. One of the key reasons it is so dull is because of our lead actors, who seem badly miscast. We are supposed to believe they are completely madly in love but there is no chemistry and we are supposed to believe they are elite soldiers but there is no evidence. Dane DeHaan is a good actor, but he is not a charismatic crack soldier. Cara Delavingne is better than she was in Suicide Squad but still seems to be learning how to act and at times is incredibly wooden. As with Paper Towns, her breakout film, she is cast as “the woman a man would become obsessed with” but simply comes across as “a bit aloof”.

I also have to say a word about Rihanna, playing a shape shifting alien called bubble. Almost out acting the leads she gets to play every male fantasy role in a bravura sequence where she shifts between maid, schoolgirl, catwoman and more in a sleazy club. A role that sums up the film, stunning to watch but serving no purpose to plot.

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