Like Taraninto Luc Besson is perhaps one of the few true auteurs of main stream cinema today a subject that can be debated over and over. Although some of Besson’s films do fail to hit the mark, look at the likes of Lucy and how the transporter series has been driven into the ground and maybe Liam Neeson was Taken a one too many times. But Besson is also responsible for some the most ambitious, creative and visually stunning and engaging pieces of cinema in history. Being the man behind Leon (1994) (writer), Taxi (1998), District B13 (2004) (producer) and of course the Sci Fi classic The Fifth Element (1997) (director), he returns with the equally aesthetic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
Based on the 1960’s French comic book that inspired Star Wars, Valerian stars Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad) as Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline respectively. The two special operatives are assigned with investigating a threat to Alpha, also known as the city of a thousand planets, after recovering an object of great value to the Federations. It is left to these two agents to identify a strange threat and stop it before it destroys the huge network of space stations and the millions of species that inhabit them.
The result is a rollercoaster of a movie that perhaps leaves more questions than answers. Besson definitely delivers a rich universe, supported by some great musical set pieces, one of which includes a burlesques style performance from an impressive Rhiana playing Bubble. Intertwined with this are some clever action sequences, accompanied with some stylish cinematography as well as a host of colourful characters such as Bob, Melo the Mul converter and three information brokers Laureline calls “pigeons”, who bring elements of comedy and possibly cheesiness which is more commonly found in Besson’s work.
However, Valerian is more like Besson’s Lucy (2014), anticipated yet underwhelming and sadly not matching up to his crown jewel, The Fifth Element. It suffers from using a clique and having a simple story, the relationship between Valerian and Laureline is severely under developed and there is generally a lack of real context in the movie. DeHaan doesn’t have the ability to capture an audience with a charismatic lead role nor is he able to fully assert himself upon the film, unlike Delevinge who proves she is a more than capable actor, but this doesn’t help the pair’s floundering chemistry on screen, which shows moments of brilliance but doesn’t really produce the results needed to make Valerian a serious Hollywood contender this summer.
This is not an overly fair representation of Valerian and it shouldn’t be known for having more negatives than positives. Instead, this film should be viewed as a fun Sci Fi action/adventure movie, known for its great soundtrack, goofy characters, a great performance from Cara Delevingne and of course the eye catchingly brilliant special effects! Proving that if left to creative on an epic scale Besson is still an auteur in his own right and capable of producing some of the best looking scenes on the big screen today!