Valerian and the City of 1000 Planets has a classy way of taking the audience from the real outer space accomplishments of NASA in the ‘70s to a science fiction extrapolation involving aliens. The Alpha Intergalactic Space Station becomes too unwieldy for Earth’s gravity so goes off into space with the inhabitants of 1000 planets. Ohhhh, so that’s why it’s called… it’s a city of… I get it.
Flash forward to around 2550 and Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevigne) are on a mission. Wait, first, there’s a colony of beautiful glittery aliens on a beach. The females of this species are definitely Luc Besson’s type, tall and lythe, only now with CGI thinned waists. They are forced to evacuate by a fiery invasion, and Valerian senses something from his ship.
The audience truly gets to discover new worlds as they accompany Valerian and Laureline on their mission. It crafts a fun and suspenseful chase between two dimensions. There are adorable creatures who poop diamonds and pearls. The CGI is beautiful, creating unique images, not the same old Star Wars planets and Lord of the Rings monsters.
Writer/director Besson imbues Valerian with his French romantic ideal. The film wears its heart on its sleeve, for better and worse. For better, it is very anti-tyranny. For worse, they really lay on Valerian’s womanizing thick. His obsessive pursuit of Laureline makes him a stalker. Unfortunately, Valerian’s journey doesn’t even teach him to respect her. It only teaches him to win her. I thought they would take turns saving each other, but maybe some of her saves ended up on the cutting room floor.The interdimensional sequence has clear rules for how it works and what makes Valerian vulnerable. A later scene where Valerian busts through the walls of a ship and ends up in a space chase is less clear how it all works. The most fun sequences are diversions from the main plot, with the weirdest physics. Some of the aliens are hard to understand even though they speak English.
I kept hoping there would be some cameo from a Fifth Element character but a bar named after that film’s lead character is the closest we get.
I would only advise seeing Valerian in 2D anyway, but if you are a 3D fan, Valerian’s was broken when it screened. There is still time for them to fix all the ghosting images in outer space, but if they don’t then you’re in for a headache.
If Valerian and the City of 1000 Planets does well and they make more adventures of Valerian and Laureline, I’d see them. I’d be curious to see what else Besson can put in this world. I hope Laureline gets a promotion though and I hope some of the physics and mythology are a little more concrete in the next outing.