Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Sci-fi space adventure set in the 28th century. Been meaning to watch this for quite some time, but have been worried it wouldn’t live up to expectations, like Ghost In The Shell or Atomic Blonde. Would it be Avatar meets Sesame Street ?

Initial impressions were not good – the expected sub-Avatar aliens (later identified as the “Mül“) on a bright beach experiencing Armageddon and a supersized Babylon 5 version of the ISS (International Space Station) sent into space to prevent it crashing into the earth.

However, giving it the benefit of the doubt (it is a Luc Besson film after all) I persisted.

The plot slowly expands into an intergalactic conspiracy of a planetary genocide coverup. Not that you have that idea initially – it looks more like a Star Wars rip off, complete with pew pew laser gun fights on the ground and spaceships piloted by just-out-of-their-teens. It does have some quite stunning visuals though.

It doesn’t help that Cara Delevingne was a model prior to her film career and has kept the “frown to look cool”, “frown to look angry” and “frown to look surprised” approach to acting. Serious Botox usage too, judging by the lack of any movement in her forehead. I’m afraid the titular lead isn’t much better, played fairly anonymously by Dane DeHaan. I never really got to “like” the characters.

Some of the other talent in the film is markedly better though. A fleeting visit by Rutger Hauer as Earth President at the start gave me high hopes, Clive Owen as corrupt Commander Filitt is typically abrasive and believable, even Herbie Hancock as the Defense Minister is worth his place. And you can’t ever mistake John Goldman’s voice in any film, in this instance as (animated) pirate captain Igon Siruss. I had to laugh when Rihanna arrived as a sexy shape shifting “Glamopod” with Ethan Hunt as her pimp, as while an actress she really isn’t, she played this role reasonably well – though it is largely as eye candy and not going to win her any awards or further her career.

Overall it was a bit lame in the story department.

This payback story type has been used many times before – high ranking officer/politician does something bad, covers it up and is found out later with varying levels of discomfort and/or shame, roll credits.

Yes there are the elements regarding the annihilation, preservation, salvation and final repatriation of the Mül aliens shown on the beach at the start to flesh out the story and be the background to the fall of Filitt (Clive Owen), but the unconvincing aliens could be *anything* and have the same effect.

You can see why despite all the glitz and hi-tech glamour, it failed to make any money over it’s initial cost. It tries to hide it’s unoriginal plot but fails to do so.

Recycled plot, wooden acting from the leads plus not particularly impressive cgi aliens.

I wanted to like this film more, but like the aforementioned Ghost In The Shell or Atomic Blonde, no amount of flash could cover the drab story and not particularly likeable characters.

I’d stick with “The Fifth Element” over this. It does everything here but better.

5/10. 2 hours long and it felt like it.


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