In regards to the quality of a visually driven space opera, on one end of the spectrum you will have a masterpiece like The Fifth Element and on the other end you will have dumpster fire like Jupiter Ascending. In the middle will be something like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, its not that memorable nor will it be that iconic but at least it’s still a better movie than Jupiter Ascending.
It’s hard for anyone to enter the theater and not expect Luc Besson to recreate the magic of The Fifth Element. Even if you never saw the iconic space opera from the 90’s, your overall opinion of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will be a simple meh.
Based on the Valérian and Laureline comics (specifically Ambassador of the Shadows), the story follows two special police officers who are tasked with keeping the peace in Alpha, a mega city home to a thousand alien species who live alongside each other. When a dark force threatens the citizens of Alpha, our heroes must race against the clock to find out whats happening and save the city.
Valérian and Laureline series is among one of the most influential works of science fiction. Classic works like Star Wars and Babylon 5 have borrowed or have been influenced by this iconic series, hence the movie has a lot to live up to. While the story is good it suffers from a poor delivery in regards to its casting choice.
On paper, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has a great story that could have been unforgettable had it been delivered properly. This poor delivery is due to the cast who either are not suited for the role or appear to be disinterested during their performance. You really want to Dane DeHaan as Valerian and Cara Delevingne as Laureline but its like trying to Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in Twilight. They just give a very bland performance and fail to truly bring these heroes to life.
This makes the overall film feel very mediocre and almost kills any chance Besson had at recreating the magic of The Fifth Element. However its almost passable in terms of quality that it will not be remembered as being Jupiter Ascending unwanted step-sibling. However I must note that fans of hard and over-the-top science-fiction will take a liking to this film. It has everything they will love about the genre while the acting can be forgiven if its not a real issue for them.
Do not forget that this is still a science fiction film by Luc Besson, which means it needs to be packed with CGI and it has to be pretty. On this front it dose not disappoint as the film has many moments of awe inspiring visuals that really do take you to a stellar world beyond the stars. Honestly, I thought the over the top CGI would be boring (especially in this post-Fury Road age of cinema). The action packed moments along with the fast paced chases are among the films best moments and this is made possible by understanding how visual art effects the views emotions.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets had a lot of potential to be the next sci-fi masterpiece but a poor casting choice along with many bad deliveries keep it from achieving greatness. At best its an over the top film that sci-fi buff and CGI junkies will enjoy.
Final Score: 6/10
Disclaimer: I bought my ticket and saw this film at the AMC on Saratoga.