Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Review
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In 1997, French director Luc Besson released The Fifth Element, a wildly creative futuristic romp through space. And he gives his latest sci-fi thriller, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, the same imaginative, otherworldly style—but not much else.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets follows government agents Valerian and Laureline (Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne) as they travel to Alpha, a massive intergalactic city where species from around the universe have come together to share their knowledge and experience. But the heart of Alpha has been contaminated with a mysterious force that threatens to destroy it. And when Valerian disappears, Laureline sets out to rescue her partner, so they can work together to save Alpha and all of the beings, the knowledge, and the power that it contains.

It’s no surprise that the guy who directed The Fifth Element would be able to create a wildly imaginative intergalactic setting for this graphic novel adaptation. And Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is certainly a fascinating spectacle, with its over-the-top futuristic settings and different alien species.

The rest of the film, however, is, for the most part, an incoherent mess. Though the story is supposed to be about two agents on a quest to save the space station, it takes nearly an hour to get to the actual point of the action. And even when the real mission is revealed, Besson spends more time on Laureline’s quest to find Valerian—followed by his quest to rescue her from capture—than on their mission to save Alpha.

The characters, too, are far from likable. Both are smug and superior, going into missions unprepared and responding to their commanding officers with scowling defiance and eye-rolling. Valerian is arrogant and obnoxious, and he spends most of the film using bad pick-up lines and condescension in a horribly misguided attempt to convince his partner that he’s madly in love with her. And while Laureline has moments when she seems like she could actually take her job seriously, she spends most of the film stomping around in skimpy costumes, talking about clothes and shopping.

After more than two hours of bewildering missions and unnecessary relationship drama, it’s painfully clear that Besson should have taken the time to focus his creative energy on more than just the imaginative graphics.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is visually inventive but lacking in focus. You can probably get the gist of it by watching a couple of trailers—and that might be better use of your time than sitting through the entire 140-minute mess.

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