Sunday, 6 August 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) - Film Review


*Originally written August 6th, 2017*

"Besson's back"

Luc Besson is a director I've had a weird history with. Since Leon (One of my favourite films of all time), his output has been less than great, I've enjoyed some of his films, but never really loved. I'm not even been fan of The Fifth Element, although it is due a rewatch. Valerian had everything going against it. The trailers were poor, it just looked like an over-expensive and boring sci-fi expensive that was all spectacle and no soul. That 140 minute run-time didn't do it any favours to my excitement either. To my surprise, I actually loved Valerian?

Valerian is not exactly original. The story is simple, yet needlessly convoluted at points and it borrows from what seems like every sci-fi film of the past 60 years to create a Frankenstein of a sci-fi epic. Yet it mostly all works. 

From the opening moments establishing the world to David Bowie's Space Oddity, I was in. It's a sweeping, gorgeous film filled with countless creative ideas and visuals. Every second was a feast for the eyes. Every penny of the budget was put into the CGI and it shows. Not a single thing looked crappy or fake. It made a world that was unique and had me for the ride.

It wasn't all perfect though. Dane DeHaan was a less than charismatic lead and was constantly outshined by his partner Cara Delevigne. DeHaan was something of a charisma vacuum, trying hard to be cool and giving off one-liners that were not the best.  It's a shame too, as I know DeHaan is an actor capable of giving a great performance (He's better than he was in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, so don't worry).

Cara Delevigne fared much better as the supporting lead. She was fun, charming and fun to watch, which was amazing considering her mostly awful performance in Suicide Squad. It also helped she might have been better to look at than all of Valerian's already beautiful visuals. She's never been an actress massively on my radar, but damn, I want to see everything she's in now.

Enough about how gorgeous Cara Delevigne is. Valerian's action scenes are fun and energetic. The use of sci-fi weapons and equipment made for some truly memorable and entertaining set-pieces. The opening heist was a little confusing at first, but it soon turned into the highlight of the film. The middle is a bit action-light, but I appreciated the surprisingly toned down and small finale.

Valerian's biggest weakness aside from Dane DeHaan was easily its script. There's some humour that hits and a lot that doesn't. Some of the lines are eye-rolling and pretty bad. The film also detours quite a bit, making its 140 minute run-time feel very unnecessary. A lot could have been trimmed. Saying that, the film breezed by and did not feel that long at all. I was also a bit confused by the plot at some points, but that might be me not paying enough attention. I knew enough to stay involved, but I did have a few questions at the end of it.

It's a shame we probably won't get a Valerian franchise as this is destined to be a colossal flop at the end of its run, which sucks because I'd love to see more adventures set in this universe. Just ditch Dane DeHaan and focus on Delevigne instead. 

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will never go down as a sci-fi classic and will probably flop massively, but it's one of my biggest surprises of the year and one I might love even more on rewatches. A weird, unique and highly entertaining sci-fi epic that's a whole ton of fun and features a wonderfully charismatic Cara Delevigne.

8/10 Dans

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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