Beauty is only skin deep in Luc Besson’s Valerian

From legendary director Luc Besson comes Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, an adaption of the French science fiction comic series Valérian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières.

The film starts with the evolution of Alpha, an international space station above Earth. It’s occupied by various species of aliens alongside humans and is released from Earth’s atmosphere to travels through space. Now in the 28th Century, Alpha is known as ‘The City of Thousand Planets’. This is where we find Valerian and Laureline, special agents of the human police force aboard the space station. After a mission to retrieve a rare species of animal called a ‘converter’ they uncover a plot that endangers the entire space station, but who is behind this threat?

Valerian, played by Dane DeHaan, is supposed to be the classic hero, which in my mind should be kind, strong and brave, however, DeHaan’s portrayal makes him come across as a charmless douchebag. He also seems to be doing an impression of Keanu Reeves for most of the film? Cara Delevingne, as Laureline, comes across a lot better and this is her best performance to date. Rihanna is great as Bubble, a shape-shifting alien that helps Valerian, but the sequence that she is introduced is too long and indulgent instead of giving the urgency the scene needed. Ethan Hawke and John Goodman turn up in cameos and simply act rings around the main cast with ease. One positive to the casting was that is was great to see quite a diverse supporting cast.

Unfortunately, none of the performances could save the film from its dialog which is just plain terrible; embarrassingly, lines that are obviously supposed to be funny really fall flat. The script is just packed full of clichés that are just painfully delivered.

As one would expect from Besson, the action sequences are very good, but as the audience is unlikely to be invested in the heroes these sequences are null and void. Overall, Valerian is style over substance; I can’t believe a veteran like Besson, who brought us Leon and The Fifth Element, could produce a movie that was so miscast and with such a weak script.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a visually stunning film with amazing concepts but the minute our hero enters the fray the film’s wheels just fall off.

Reviewed by Ian Wright.

2 stars