Watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is like attending a Cirque du Soleil performance. An energetic, dazzling spectacular of colours and music.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Synopsis
While on a mission to retrieve an endangered creature, space agent Valerian has a dream of peaceful seaside world being destroyed by crashing space debris. On returning to Alpha, the space station housing millions of races from across the universe, he is told by his commander that a mysterious force has taken over an ancient core of the station. Before further investigation is possible, Alpha is suddenly attacked by a group of unknown assailants. In the midst of the pandemonium, Commander Filitt is kidnapped. Valerian also goes missing, after pursuing the kidnappers deep into Alpha.
It is by sheer coincidence that I recently wrote about the Be An Interplanetary Spy gamebook series. My favourite interactive book series from the early 80s, IS narrates the adventures of an unnamed “spy” maintaining cosmic peace across the galaxies. Together with movies like Star Wars, IS also convinced me that the unknown universe out there is populated by millions of scary but potentially peaceful species. Someday, we can all live together. Someday, an actual interplanetary spy job could be available for all Terrans to take up.
After watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, I was thrilled to read that the source comic was one of the major influences for Star Wars, and correspondingly books like Be An Interplanetary Spy. Renowned not only for defining the foundations of the genre and for its socio-political undertones, Valérian and Laureline is also beloved for its brilliant depictions of alien landscapes, cultures and species. For the latter area, Luc Besson’s extravaganza certainly does honour to the source material, with the whole movie being one dazzling panorama to another. A visual feast complete with an appropriate soundtrack to complete that theatrical performance feel. Naturally, there’s also a slew of futuristic equipment and combat scenes to gawk at. Watching the movie is quite akin to attending a high-energy dance performance. An outlandish one with ever changing backgrounds, and no intermission.
Story and acting wise, expectedly, there are concessions in order to facilitate the emphasis on visual diversity. This considered, I still find the leads’ performances rather lacking. With all due respect, Dean DeHaan just doesn’t cut it as the hardy, resourceful space agent he’s playing. Most of the time, he just comes across as being boyish and impertinent. This is somewhat compensated by the admirable performances thrown in by Clive Owen and especially Rihanna. Unfortunately, whatever the supporting actors could do doesn’t overall improve what could otherwise be a space opera storytelling masterpiece. In some scenes, they even end up stealing the limelight too much.
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