Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
dir-scr Luc Besson
prd Luc Besson, Virginie Besson-Silla
with Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Sam Spruell, Kris Wu, Herbie Hancock, Ethan Hawke, Mathieu Kassovitz, Alain Chabat, John Goodman, Rutger Hauer
release US 21.Jun.17, Fr 26.Jul.17, UK 2.Aug.17
17/France Europa 2h17
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Undercover tourists: Dehaan and Delevingne

owen rihanna sw
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets With a big visual imagination, Luc Besson propels audiences into a crazily complex corner of the universe for an overcrowded adventure that has a refreshingly loose narrative and oddly old-fashioned heart. It's lively and engaging, making up for some rather predictable plot points with riotous comedy and deeper emotions, plus a nice blast of present-day resonance. But it's never quite as exhilarating as it needs to be.

In the 28th century, humanity has launched Alpha, a city that's home to beings from a thousand homeworlds, all working to have a life together. Valerian (DeHaan) is a security operative, travelling with his bickering partner Laureline (Delevingne) to another planet to retrieve valuable contraband. Oddly, their shenanigans seem linked to a vivid dream Valerian had about a lost planet, and back on Alpha the Commander (Owen) is engaged in a secret war against these very people. Unaware of this, Valerian and Laureline stumble into a messy power struggle, finding help in unexpected places.

Besson keeps things moving with one frantic set-piece after another, never quite bothering to explain what's going on before plunging into yet another chase, infiltration or fistfight. Traditional marriage and gender roles are apparently still a thing in the 28th century, so Valerian and Laureline argue incessantly about their future plans as a couple. And along the way they meet several extremely colourful characters, including shape-shifting pole-dancer Bubble (Rihanna), shameless huckster Jolly (Hawke) and Bob the submarine pirate (Chabat).

Only a handful of these people emerge as defined characters. Rihanna has a couple of nice moments alongside her rather gratuitous music video sequence. And Spruell and Wu make a great double act as officials trying to figure out what's going on. Owen is so shifty from the start that it seems ridiculous when Besson tries to obscure the truth about him. And DeHaan and Delevingne are enjoyable central figures, but rarely get a chance to dig beneath the surface.

What will keep audiences gripped is Besson's constant flow of eye-popping imagery, with gadgets, ships, worlds and aliens who look flat-out amazing. Sure, there's a nagging sense that this is basically Star Wars meets Avatar, but the clanky nature of this universe has enough charm to keep us entertained. And it might even make us want to come back for more. After all, this is based on just one of the comic books created between 1967 and 2010 by Pierre Cristin and Jean-Claude Mezieres.

cert 12 themes, language, violence, innuendo 19.Jul.17

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