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8/3/17

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS - REVIEW


Based on the French graphic novels, Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets is writer/director Luc Besson's latest sci-fi epic starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as two special agents on a particularly unusual space-set mission.

Boasting colourful visuals and lots of action, the trailers for Valerian evoked the fast-paced serial style of The Fifth Element and it definitely looked like fun. The film opens with a cool montage set to David Bowie's "Space Oddity" in which we see the evolution of the titular City Of A Thousand Planets as increasingly odd-looking aliens shake hands with the humans greeting them: it sets the playful tone perfectly and we even get a Rutger Hauer cameo. We then follow a peaceful alien race as their paradise planet is destroyed by spaceships crashing into it out of nowhere and the plot is set in motion as special agent Valerian starts dreaming about that planet's dying princess. The special effects and art style are beautiful throughout, think Avatar meets Jupiter Ascending with some Fifth Element thrown in, and you can tell that a lot of care went into creating this larger-than-life world peopled by countless weird-looking aliens. DeHaan and Delevingne are not your typical overly glamorous Hollywood leads which actually helps give the film a unique identity.

This is an old-fashioned space adventure told with state-of-the-art effects and it's far more ambitious and inventive than most recent sci-fi films. The imagination involved in bringing this universe to life alone deserves praise but this is also a very entertaining movie with numerous over-the-top action sequences, some comic relief and tons of charm. The humour is nowhere near as heavy-handed as it can be in Besson's films, which is refreshing, and the romance isn't really the focus so this leaves plenty of time to admire the slick visuals and get into the spirit of Valerian and Laureline's adventure. Unfortunately, the ending fails to deliver as our two leads and good old Clive Owen spend an unhealthy amount of time explaining the pretty simplistic plot to us. It's such a shame that the script falls apart in the third act because everything up until that point was a riot. Admittedly, parts of the film aren't all that necessary like a side mission involving Rihanna as a shapeshifting alien dancer called Bubble, for example, but at least even they make sense.

There's plenty to like about Luc Besson's latest: the visuals are a treat, of course, but it's altogether a very creative, thoroughly entertaining sci-fi romp with just the right amount of camp. The writing loses it in the last 15 minutes so it's an uneven movie but you won't regret seeing it.

One for sci-fi fans.

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