It was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated movie of the year: Valerian and the city of a thousand planets, the new feature film directed by Luc Besson was released in France on the 26th of July. Based on the comic strip Valerian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières; this French blockbuster shows a future, in which humans live with thousands of species of aliens on a gigantic space station. Here is our review of this impressive space opera despite a few imperfections.
Space has always been one of the favourite settings for science fiction directors. The greatest names have filmed it: George Lucas in Star Wars, James Cameron in Avatar and now, Luc Besson in Valerian and the city of a thousand planets. In his new movie, the French filmmaker adapts a series of comic strips that met with great success in the 70s and makes us follow the adventures of Valerian and Laureline (respectively played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne), two space agents travelling from planet to planet to undertake their missions and protect Alpha, the international space station which grew so much, from nowadays to 2740 (the year during which the story takes place), that it had to be ejected from the terrestrial orbit and is inhabited by thousands of human and extraterrestrial live species.
While listening to the mythic song Space Oddity by David Bowie, we watch the space station get bigger and bigger over the years and leave its orbit before we see the different delegation arriving successively from all over the Earth and the galaxy. This magnificent opening scene which is full of special effects and cameos of cinema celebrities sets the pace for the whole movie. The impressive settings, sublimated by 3D, plunge us in different atmospheres as we follow the journeys of the two main characters and the beautiful costumes and make-ups give life to the numerous creatures they meet; many of which hint at the greatest science fiction movies. All this helps the spectator immerse in the story. Moreover, despite the length of the film – 2h16 – the scenario always remains fast-paced and the action scenes build up without any down time.
Yet, this swiftness has some drawbacks. Many protagonists only appear on screen for a few minutes. Thus, the appearances of great stars who play crazy roles, such as Rihanna as a space transformist performer or French comedian Alain Chabat who is nearly unrecognizable as an old intergalactic fisherman, are funny and constitute welcome comic relieves in such a hectic plot; but, as soon as we sympathize with them, they disappear. The characters’ psychologies are also unfortunately very little developed. Even if we easily like Laureline, such a modern and badass heroine as Luc Besson appreciates them and who reminds us of Lucy or Petra, the super policewoman in Taxi, and Valerian, who is slightly pretentious and macho but who is also a deeply good man; the couple always remains a bit hollow so that we are never able to fully identify with them.
Nevertheless, despites these imperfections, Valerian and Laureline may have a bright future since the comic strip comprises several other volumes and Luc Besson said he is ready to adapt them if this first movie meets with success. So, Valerian and the city of a thousand planets might be the starting point of a brand new space saga. To be continued…
Valerian and the city of a thousand planets (original title: Valerian et la cité des mille planètes), Luc Besson, France, 2017, 2h16, released in Germany on the 20th of July 2017, in Canada and the United States of America on the 21st of July 2017, in France, Switzerland and Belgium on the 26th of July 2017 and in the United Kingdom on the 2nd of August 2017.