Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Reviewed by Jon E Clist

The Premise
In the 28th century, Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha-an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

The Review
I make no excuses for being a Luc Besson fan. I have enjoyed his films for years and would class three of his films as massively moving cinematic memories. You know… those films that stick with you throughout your life and you can even remember the way they made you feel. For me three of Besson’s cinematic outings were huge for me. The Fifth Element, The Professional (Leon) and The Big Blue. Each of these films were amazing stories and certainly a lovely collection of cinematic beauty. So, when the word started coming out for the release of Valerian and the City of a thousand planets, you could say that I have been somewhat giddy.

This is a film that you could say was a passion project for Besson and with a final production budget of EUR197.47 million, the film is officially the most expensive ever made in France, significantly exceeding the budget of the previous record holder. This isn’t a first time for Besson, twenty years earlier, The Fifth Element, was the most expensive French movie at the time with a budget of EUR90 million. This guy knows how spend money but he also knows how to make luscious and stunning films.

The film is based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières. This year is the 50th anniversary of these comics and as you could imagine the view of a future or life in space is probably a lot different today than it was five decades ago. Yet Besson’s view of a world in space is quite different to other film makers, so you kind of know that what will make it onto the big screen is going to be something rather fresh and strange.

This is one of those films that you can clearly see how time needed to pass before the source material could be brought to the big screen. Fifty years ago, it was a long time ago and can you even imagine what a film about aliens would have looked like back then? Well you don’t need to imagine her are the posters from some of them....

So, take 200 million euros and a stack load of new tech, including work by the always amazing Weta Digital and you have something delightful to behold. There are so many different types of alien lifeforms of all sorts of shapes and sizes. Even taking out the ability to animate these characters, just the process of coming up with the designs and there is so much work involved. In fact, there are 200 different alien species in this movie. Luc Besson even wrote a 600-page book describing in great detail all the species. The actors had to read that book prior to filming so they can adjust their acting depending on the species they were interacting with.

Then of course there is the beautiful stunning landscapes of a life in space. Amazing starships and beautiful planets help tell this story and creating a massively visually intense viewing experience. At over two hours the film is so jam-packed with action and visual stimuli that you don’t find yourself thinking about the duration at any stage.

From a casting point of view, I think the film is pretty good. Dane DeHaan is though still young and reasonably fresh, he still brings some fun to the role. His previous experience on screen so far has been a lot more dramatic and serious and although not completely perfect he does a fair job bringing the levity to his character. While Cara Delevingne fits well within the overall film she doesn’t have that strong attitude of a kick-ass soldier. She feels a little like a model playing at soldiers. That being said there is a nice chemistry between them that plays well within the story. Not sure what to say about Rihanna, so perhaps I’ll just leave it there.

The Verdict
A spectacular visual feast of cinematic proportions. If you enjoyed The Fifth Element or just generally love Sci-Fi then you have to see this on the biggest screen you can find.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 10th August 2017
Rating: M – Contains fantasy violence
Duration: 137 minutes 
Genre:  Sci-Fi
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen and Rihanna
Director: Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Leon)

The Extras
Luc Besson first premiered some footage at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con. This footage received a standing ovation from the crowd in Hall H.

Luc Besson deliberately chose to shoot the film, an adaptation of a French comic, in English with English-speaking actors in order to raise its chances of a wider audience.

The two first trailers use the song "Because" by the Beatles. It is the very first time a film director could obtain the rights for using a Beatles song in a movie advertisement. Permission was granted by Paul McCartney.

Weta Digital and ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) have previously worked together on Contact (1997), Van Helsing (2004), Eragon (2006) and Avatar (2009), making Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets their fifth collaboration.