Print review of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Europacorp, Lionsgate) for the 3rd August edition of The Oxford Paper and Oxfordshire Guardian from Taylor Newspapers.
“Adapted by Besson from a beloved 1960s French comic series, Valerian centres on two young special agents in a distant, space-faring future – Valerian himself (a rakish Dane DeHaan), and his trusted partner Laureline (confident relative newcomer Cara Delevingne).
When a deadly radioactive zone is discovered growing deep within the ‘city of a thousand planets’ (formerly the international space station, now home to a vast array of alien representatives), Valerian and Laureline must solve its mystery before it causes a galaxy-wide diplomatic incident.
This simple plot acts as the thinnest of threads holding together a patchwork of bizarre sci-fi spectacles:
Tribal aliens extremely reminiscent of James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ species fumble with space pearls; Valerian and Laureline foil a dodgy trade in an inter-dimensional marketplace; kidnappers are pursued through the space station’s vivid artificial environments; a brain-sucking jellyfish is extracted from the back of a giant space whale; and Ethan Hawke prances about as owner of a shape-shifting brothel.
Each of these spectacles is genuinely spectacular, with superlative special effects and a rich score from veteran Alexandre Desplat – but there is nothing beneath the venir. The script is laughable; performances unbalanced; narrative confused; humour terribly leaden. Put simply: you won’t watch many films where it’s considered acceptable for a vomit-in-the-face gag to precede a pseudo-erotic pole dance by Rihanna.”
Cast & Crew
Director(s): Luc Besson
Writer(s): Luc Besson
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer