400 years in the future, the world has populated a giant space station known as Alpha. Not only are people from all countries of the world welcome, aliens have joined the humans living there. The space station has gotten so large, it threatens to crash to Earth due to its size. As a result, Alpha is sent into the deep reaches of space.
Special agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are part of the force that helps protect humans. On their latest mission, they are tasked with retrieving an animal with special powers. Along the way, Valerian comes across a pearl that can serve as a power source that is potentially dangerous in the wrong hands. Their expedition on Alpha has them unraveling a mystery in the heart of Alpha that threatens its very existence.
Based on the graphic novel Valérian et Laureline, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets follows our heroes on a convoluted story through a beautifully presented space station.
Dane DeHaan does his best as a Han Solo type character. He’s charming, sarcastically witty, a bit of a womanizer, but ultimately gets the job done. Playing opposite DeHaan is Cara Delevingne’s Laureline. As Valerian’s partner, Laureline is no damsel in distress waiting for Valerian to save her. She knows how to hold her own. She also happens to be the woman who could potentially get Valerian to settle down. Rihanna makes a brief appearance as the shape-shifting Bubble. She is an “entertainer” working for Jolly the Pimp, played by Ethan Hawke. She is fine in the film, but seems to serve as little more than an excuse to put Rihanna on the poster. Ethan Hawke, on the other hand, is probably the highlight of the film. The few short minutes he spends on the screen, he absolutely steals the scene. He is delightfully over the top and I wish we had spent more time with him.
The story is a complete mess. It jumps around from scene to scene with little connection until a brief bit of exposition near the end of the film. Rather than worry about story, the film focuses all of its attention on its amazing visuals. Employing a fair amount of virtual reality into the “real world” of the film allows sparse desert scenes to be mixed with bustling marketplaces seamlessly. Fight scenes, which may be a little overly complex, fill every inch of the screen with action. The effects team definitely got the lion’s share of the budget, and director Luc Besson got his money’s worth.
If you want to sit back and watch a film simply to experience it, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is definitely a good choice. You will get lost trying to follow the story, but that’s not why you’re there. I would recommend seeing it in 3D to fully appreciate the world Besson is giving us. It’s the only reason to see it, after all.