Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
by Hope Madden
There is a pleasantly madcap quality to the environments filmmaker Luc Besson creates. His best work combines that untamed world – whether earthbound and criminal or colorfully intergalactic – with unusual characters performing slickly choreographed action.
His lesser efforts don’t. On that note, meet Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
Based on France’s beloved comic series about a pair of time and space-hopping agents, Besson’s film looks pretty cool.
Not as good as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, or Matt Reeves’s War for the Planet of the Apes, or Spider-Man: Homecoming or Baby Driver or about one out of every three movies released so far this summer.
At this point in cinematic history, you have to bring more to the screen than visual flair.
What else you got, Luc?
Because it’s not acting.
Dane DeHaan plays Valerian. Poorly. Wildly miscast as the scoundrel flyboy who might find love with his partner, the often reliable actor cannot make his way through Besson’s stilted, lifeless banter.
DeHaan has a better time of it than Cara Delevingne as Valerian’s strong-willed partner Laureline – perhaps because Delevingne has no discernible talent.
Still, the writing is awful and she’d be in a tough spot even if she did have talent. Just ask Clive Owen. He has talent galore and even he embarrasses himself with this garbage.
To be fair, Valerian is basically a kids’ movie. Except for that extended and utterly needless stripper sequence showcasing Rihanna. But if you cut that out (if only we could – along with at least another 15 minutes, because damn this movie is long!), then you basically have a kids’ movie.
Not a good one. So just don’t set your standards too high. Go in looking for an overly long, addle-brained extra-terrestrial romp that looks great and you’ll be fine.
Unless you really want quality acting. Valerian an’t help you there.