It takes a special kind of digital eye candy for me to recommend that you shell out $15 to go see a movie on the big screen in 3D just based on the images on screen. First, writing and direction can’t be as horrid as the last few “Transformers” films and second, we have to be shown something we haven’t seen before. Luc Besson does borrow a bit from his two-decade old sci-fi epic “The Fifth Element”, but he greatly expands on it in “Valerian”.
Based on the French comic book series which ran from 1967-2010, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” centers on intergalactic agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne). When an unknown menace threatens the interplanetary metropolis known as Alpha, it is up to the agents to figure out not only how to save the city, but also the universe. The one thing that is clear early on is that Commander Arün Filitt (Clive Owen) is definitely a shady character.
Throughout the film, we are taken to some spectacular worlds. One of them looks like the best place for a beach-side vacation. Another planet hosts an inter-dimensional flea market that includes more than a million shops. The massive “Alpha” city which we see how It was created during the film’s opening is my personal favorite.
DaHaan and Delevingne have great chemistry together and “Valerian” is filled with some fun surprises, like Ethan Hawke as an alien pimp named Jolly and John Goodman voicing a CGI gangster. The problem is mostly with the story. Don’t get me wrong, “The Fifth Element” didn’t sport the best screenplay either, but much like “Valerian” is gave its’ audience something spectacular to feast their eyes on. Unfortunately, we don’t have the privilege of spending time with Gary Oldman, Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker.
Another issue with “Valerian” is the pacing. It runs 137 minutes and the story is all over the place. Twenty minutes left on the cutting room floor could have made a huge difference, but the film runs on for way too long. Despite my issues with the faults in “Valerian” the world Besson helped deliver is just way to amazing to ignore. Once in awhile it’s just nice to sit there and enjoy the view, even if it’s only that.
By: Marc Ferman