Watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is like attending a Cirque du Soleil performance. An energetic, dazzling spectacular of colours and music.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Synopsis
While on a mission to retrieve an endangered creature, space agent Valerian has a dream of peaceful seaside world being destroyed by crashing space debris. On returning to Alpha, the space station housing millions of races from across the universe, he is told by his commander that a mysterious force has taken over an ancient core of the station. Before further investigation is possible, though, Alpha is suddenly attacked by a group of unknown assailants, and in the midst of the pandemonium, the Commander is kidnapped. Valerian himself soon also goes missing, after pursuing the kidnappers deep into Alpha.
It is sheer coincidence that I recently wrote about the Be An Interplanetary Spy gamebook series.
My favourite interactive book series from the early 80s, IS presents the adventures of an unnamed “spy” maintaining cosmic peace across the galaxies. Together with movies like Star Wars, IS convinced me as a kid that the unknown universe out there MUST BE populated by millions of incredible but potentially peaceful species. Someday, we can all live together harmoniously. Someday, an actual interplanetary spy job could be available for all Terrans to take up too.
After watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, I was thrilled to read that the source comic was one of the major influences for Star Wars, and correspondingly, books like Be An Interplanetary Spy. Renowned not only for defining the foundations of the genre and for its socio-political undertones, Valérian and Laureline was also beloved for brilliant depictions of alien landscapes, cultures, and species. In other words, the space opera format we are so familiar with nowadays owe a lot to this legendary French science fiction comic series.
Coming back to this live-action adaptation, I must say Luc Besson’s extravaganza certainly does justice to the legendary source material, with the whole movie one dazzling panorama to another, a delightful visual feast complete with an appropriate soundtrack to achieve that theatrical performance feel. Naturally, there’s also a slew of futuristic equipment and combat scenes to gawk at throughout. Watching the movie is seriously akin to attending a high-energy dance performance. An outlandish one with ever changing backgrounds and no intermission.
Story and acting wise, expectedly, there are various concessions in order to facilitate the emphasis on visual diversity. This considered, though, I still find the leads’ performances rather lacking, at times, insipid too. With all due respect, Dean DeHaan just doesn’t cut it as the hardy and resourceful space agent he’s portraying; most of the time, he just comes across as boyish and impertinent.
This is somewhat compensated by the admirable performances thrown in by Clive Owen and Rihanna. Unfortunately, whatever the supporting actors could do doesn’t overall improve what could otherwise be a space opera storytelling masterpiece. In some scenes, Owen and Rihanna even ended up stealing the limelight too much.
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