When it comes to summer blockbusters, you’re always going to find some that get you eager to hit the cinema and others that leave you sitting on the fence. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets falls firmly into the latter column. As despite the trailers showcasing an epic sci-fi adventure, my lack of knowledge on the source material and it’s current 51% approval on Rotten Tomatoes are somewhat off putting. Since leaving the theatre, I can gladly report that the movie exceeds expectations, as in spite of agreeing with a lot of my fellow critics and moviegoers when it comes to the product’s shortcomings, I still found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable cinematic experience.
Luc Besson is in the director’s chair for this latest sci-fi caper, with the visionary behind The Fifth Element and Lucy also scripting this comic book adaptation. After laying the backstory for this futuristic world, the director introduces us to the visually stunning world of Mül and its inhabitants, only to quickly wipe them from existence. Though this may initially come across as a strange way of introducing us to this vast universe, it quickly proves to be a pivotal one, being the driving force for the rest of the movie. What follows is a rather muddled set of developments, with certain scenes working better than others at generating intrigue and momentum.
Another area of the movie that doesn’t impress quite as much as it should do is the chemistry of our lead actors. Despite both Dane DeHaan (Valerian) and Cara Delevingne (Laureline) doing the most with the poorly written dialogue, they unfortunately fail to connect on screen, with the relationship of their characters feeling rather hollow as a result of this. As for the rest of the cast, there are a couple of impressive performances, with Rihanna‘s portrayal of shapeshifting entertainer, Bubble, being a surprisingly enticing addition to the movie. Clive Owen also does a marvellous job as Valerian and Laureline’s commanding officer, Arün Filitt, as despite his brief screen time, the actor proves a crucial part of this movie’s plot.
Despite the plot as a whole lacking in structural development, there are some strong moments, with the consequence of Valerian and Laureline’s mission resulting in some emotionally captivating scenes. The various action sequences that Besson delivers throughout the movie also entice, with a particular chase early on in the movie being both clever and engaging. Where the movie excels most, however, is in its visuals, with the general look of these worlds and the various creatures within being nothing short of sensational. The musical score of Alexandre Desplat also helps to add to the dramatic tone of the picture, working particularly well during the more exciting scenes.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is at the end of the day a fun and enjoyable sci-fi movie. Granted it suffers from a poorly constructed plot and a lack of structural development, but between the core concept and visual prowess, it somehow manages to become an entertaining caper.
(7 / 10)