Monday, July 24, 2017

Movie Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Luc Besson revisits the wild side of sci-fi with an adaption of an old classic graphic novel to make a decent film that has some fun moments. The film begins with the development of the International Space Station growing with each country of Earth and making alien contact. The ship grows and turns into Alpha, a space station that hosts all of the cooperating species of a thousand planets. Valerian (Dane Dehaan) wakes after a disturbing dream of destruction to find Laureline (Cara Delevingne) on a beach simulation ready for the next mission. Valerian is flirtatious but forgets her birthday and the details of the mission. Together, the two agents fly down to a desert planet that serves a virtual market for shoppers in an effort to steal a converter, which is a cute little lizard that poops out replications of whatever it eats. This creature was introduced during the destruction of the planet and it is supposedly the last one left.

Valerian uses a dimension transport to rob the black market dealer in another dimension that he has to use glasses to see. This action scene was probably the best part of the film as Valerian jumps around trying to transport his hand back but the device was broken by the bite of an alien dog. The chase leads Valerian through the streets of the market until Laureline can save him. The dog chases them but they make it off planet at the expense of their whole crew. Valerian and Laureline return to Alpha to find that there is a new problem. Commander Arun Flitt (Clive Owen) informs them that a radioactive zone is growing at the center of the city and any crew that investigate it goes missing. An attack from the aliens at the beginning leads to Commander Flitt being captured.

Valerian chases after them but he crashes and is lost in the forbidden zone. Laureline has to bargain with three duck-like aliens to figure out where Valerian went. She has to go to the underwater section with Bob the Pirate (Alain Chabat) to catch a jellyfish that she then has to put over her head to see where he went. She finds Valerian and helps him but is captured by another group of species that have their own area that is restricted. Valerian goes to help her but is distracted by Jolly the Pimp (Ethan Hawke) and Bubble (Rihanna), a shape-shifting alien. Valerian wears Bubble to morph disguise at the primitive alien and save Laureline from having her brains eaten. The group escapes into the sewer but Bubble is tragically killed.

The two agents make their way through the forbidden zone to a strange colorful doorway. Valerian knows the way because he has had the essence of a princess inside of him. They encounter Emperor Haman-Lima├» (Elizabeth Debicki) who explains their history and why they need the converter. Commander Flitt was responsible for destroying their planet in a war and orders robots to kill anyone trying to stop them. Valerian does most of the fighting at the end and it gets pretty boring, so much so, that I almost fell asleep. The action is alright but the ending is pretty disappointing and way too predictable. 

Luc Besson has proven that he can make a wild sci-fi that I enjoy and Valerian starts with a ton of potential. While it keeps its crazy visuals throughout, it falters with the story at the end and drags. Dehaan and Delevingne seem to lose interest and their chemistry is most awkward and not an even partnership that might have been more welcome in such a progressive movie. The film certainly has its cool parts and is interesting enough but does require a theater viewing and doesn't benefit that much from a 3-D presentation. I wanted to like this film as Besson is responsible for one of my favorite sci-fi films ever but in the end, it felt disappointing. 

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