Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Review: A Stunning Visual Spectacle
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was one of my most anticipated films of the year. I could not wait until this film came out and was teeming with excitement as I entered the theater. Agents Laureline and Valerian are awaiting instructions for their mission while Valerian is sleeping by the beach. His dream is comprised of a beautiful and peaceful world where suddenly the world and a princess are destroyed. Shaken by his dream, he wakes to find they are tasked with recovering a replicator for the government. It turns out that replicator is a creature that was part of his dream. As they investigate further, they discover that the Planet Mul, where Valerian’s dream is set was an actual planet with inhabitants called the Pearls. They work through their mission finding more and more about the Planet Mul and their government’s role in the destruction of it.
From the first shot to the end, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was a visual game changer. There hasn’t been a film so visually stunning in years. The colors, characters, costume design, special effects and set design work in perfect harmony to create the world of Valerian and Laureline. Every single detail is mapped out and executed beautifully. The Planet Mul and the Pearls are meticulously designed. Every single reflection off their iridescent skin is crafted with perfection. Each species in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is designed with such thought and care. I can’t imagine the level of precision to get something as simple as the reflection of light right for each different type of skin in a scene. The scene in which Valerian must retrieve the replicator takes place in the Big Market, a huge virtual marketplace. Valerian and Laureline must work together to get the replicator and get out without being captured or killed. Since the Big Market is virtual and must be seen with special glasses and the rest of the world exists outside of it, the result is a fantastic mélange of CGI and incredible real effects. At no point is it cheapened or weak or feels like a video game, but rather becomes one of the most memorable and impressive scenes in the film. The visuals are beyond compare. The world that Luc Besson has created will not be soon forgotten.
The story is engaging and entertaining but where the film falls apart slightly is with the characters. I felt that the chemistry between Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne was slightly lacking and Delevingne gave a somewhat stoic performance as an unlikeable character. Her cynicism and lack of enthusiasm made it seem more as though she lacked the skills to pull off the emotional scenes. While there were moments where the jokes didn’t hit or the lines seemed too cheesy or campy, overall, the story was pretty good. It is reminiscent of The Fifth Element in its attempts at humor, but falls shorter and aligns itself more with a less witty humor. The surprise of the film was that Rhianna was actually pretty great as Bubble. I was worried to see her name among the cast but was pleasantly surprised in the end. Coupled with beautiful effects, the music in the film was perfect. Alexandre Desplat does it again with setting us in this ethereal otherworldly mood and blends the visuals and music with perfection.
Luc Besson has solidified his status as a fantastic sci-fi maestro with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. While it is not perfect, his eye for creating what can only be described as pure magic, and transporting his audience to another world, makes him a true visionary. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will transport you to a world far away and more beautiful than we’ve ever seen.