"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets"


"Valerian" is a film that half works and half doesn't. It is one of the most frustrating and, at the same time, dazzling movies that I have ever seen. The visuals are astonishing, some of the best use of 3D in quite some time. The story is basically a hodge-podge reason for its director Luc Besson to make the most visually arresting movie possible. Think "Avatar,"  to which this film bears many similarities. The actors are well cast, I can see its leads Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan, having a great future in the industry. It's really top-notch casting just for the sheer fact that these actors don't look ridiculous at all spewing the ridiculous dialogue of this silly Besson screenplay. 

In the 28th century, Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) are special force operatives working together to "maintain order throughout the human territories." The plot thickens when the minister of defense sends them to Alpha on assignment. Alpha is the stuff that dreams are made of, an ever-growing metropolis with diversity which blooms its colorful culture. All is not well however in Alpha, as our heroes scramble to rescue their superior, Commander Filitt (Clive Owen) from an unknown group of aliens.

The plot is a non-starter. The highs are the near euphoric visuals. It's the kind of world-building unseen since Cameron suited up for "Avatar" almost 8 years ago.  It's not just the city of Alpha that feels like an ever-shifting character in the film. The technology, the habitats, and the creature design make you remember the possibilities that cinema can bring if imagination is used to create whole new worlds. 

Director Besson has a mixed bag filmography, but his highs (Leon: The Professional, La Femme Nikita, Taken and, even, the ludicrously brilliant Lucy) have made him a formidable and influential voice in cinema. "Valerian" is an ambitious attempt to create a new world like James Cameron did with Pandora. If the result is problematic, we need more people like Besson to push the envelope and refuse to adhere to the current sequelitis infesting the industry. The fact that he decided to take this risk should be acknowledged. [C+]