Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Cinema Review)

12A – 137mins – 2017 – 3D


 

TEMPORAL SPACE AGENT

Based on Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’ pulp comic book series Valérian and Laureline which lasted a monumental 44 years from 1966-2010, it is clear that acclaimed director Luc Besson sees this epic science fiction adaptation as his grandiose Avatar moment. Intricately designed and packed full of more CGI than all three Star Wars prequels combined, sadly this is less a return to his The Fifth Element success and more a John Carter-sized flop.

It’s a shame, in truth, because this independently-funded $200million Euro-venture looks exquisite, with the vast number of exotic alien races who populate the titular 28th century space station Alpha given striking and inventive designs, but Valerian doesn’t manage to normalise the rainbow metropolis and a couple of attempts at Chris Tucker-esque exuberance just come across as embarrassing and frivolous rather than kooky.

It’s also true that the human actors – however accomplished they are – look uncomfortable under all the futuristic embellishments and multicolored garb. Just watch Clive Owen as Commander Filitt trying to look severe while yanking on a green captain’s hat and attaching a golden circuit board to the front of his suit. Meanwhile Ethan Hawke has to endure his extended cameo with jewellery strung from his nose to his ear!

Former Green Goblin Dale DeHaan feels woefully miscast as the eponymous spacetime adventurer. He’s playing a womanizing stud-muffin but he still has a frail, sickly look as if he’s come straight from the set of A Cure for Wellness, while his hair looks permanently greasy and unkempt – and we’re meant to believe that supermodel Cara Suicide Squad Delevigne is seriously considering his leftfield marriage proposal?!

The plot concerns Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline’s (Delevigne) protecting of a rare and endangered animal called a converter which they rescued from a black market deal after its idyllic pearl-farming home planet of Mül was invaded and destroyed. With Alpha under threat from a mysterious toxic infection, the agent partners are next tasked with protecting the Commander, leading to a cross-station quest when he is kidnapped by survivors of Mül; but will his rescue reveal more about the invasion than ever imagined?

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.jpgFeaturing spaceship crashes, holographic market chases, fights, gun-battles and a chameleonic dance sequence from Rihanna, Valerian’s big screen bow can never be accused of being boring or monochromatic, but the twisty-turny narrative does drag a little and the film would definitely have benefited from some restraint and more ruthless editing; sometimes less is more, even when dealing with a city of a thousand planets.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 2 stars

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