Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (M)

In a word: Shallow


Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) in the Luc Besson-directed film.


"Sadly, while it’s a mildy diverting film, Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets never reaches the heights of The Fifth Element and, to its detriment, ends with a whimper in a case of style over substance, spectacle over narrative."

Expectations were high for this Luc Besson-directed futuristic fantasy given the strength of similar previous outing The Fifth Element.

Sadly, while it’s a mildy diverting film, Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets never reaches the heights of its predecessor and, to its detriment, ends with a whimper in a case of style over substance, spectacle over narrative.

In a story adapted from a series of French comic books, Valerian (played by Dane DeHaan) is an agent of the (human) government who along with his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) is charged with the task of finding what is behind a mysterious dark force which has gained a foothold at the heart of the city of Alpha – the former international space station (ISS) which was shot out into space and is now a melting pot for all manner of aliens.

Intertwined in the story is that plight of an alien race we are shown are the very start of the movie whose world is suddenly destroyed in a cataclysmic event which wipes out their homeland.

Visually spectacular with some stellar special effects, the film, as one expects with Besson, devotes a great deal of attention to the details, whether in depicting the city of Alpha, the uniforms of two agents or the many aliens encountered in the film.

But sadly, the plot fails to deliver anything innovative, instead taking a somewhat formulaic approach to the story and failing to connect the audience in any meaningful way with the characters it involves.

DeHaan and Delevingne aren’t really challenged in their roles while Clive Owen (who plays Commander Alun Filitt) never gets past cardboard the cut-out phase.

Of course, there’s lots of bizarre characters – Bubble, a shape-shifting dancer played by Rihanna is one stand-out – and touches of humour, but Valerian fails to get hold of the sort of heart found at the centre of other recent sci-fi fantasies like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Sadly what this film may most be remembered for most is a missed opportunity.