Film Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a gorgeous film with incredible world-building, marvelous action sequences, and one of the best films this year. Director Luc Besson has created (or in this case, adapted) another of my favorite film universes to date (1997’s The Fifth Element being the other of his) within another stellar science-fiction action flick. 

The story follows Agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevigne) on a mission involving a stolen artifact, a (SUPER ADORABLE) creature that’s the last of it’s kind, a forgotten planet, and some of the coolest looking aliens in film since the Mondoshawans from The Fifth Element.

DeHaan and Delevigne were awesome as the heroic duo, mainly because the chemistry between them was incredibly strong. I was able to buy into their relationship much easier than most action flick romances, but their first and final scenes bookend the love story in a way that didn’t really click for me. Aside from that, they were a great deal of fun to watch.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed both DeHaan and Delevigne, it was Rihanna’s character Bubble that stole the show. While her send-off felt a bit weak, watching Bubble interact with Valerian and Laureline ranged from hilarious to touching. I only wish she had been given a bigger role.

There are also two more actors I’d love to praise, but I don’t want to reveal their involvement, so I’ll just tell you to be on the lookout for the characters Igon Siruss and Jolly.

On Valerian and Laureline’s journey, we are treated to some of the greatest visuals I’ve ever seen. Alpha, the titular city, is the culmination of millions of different races from all over the universe, and the territories we get to see during the movie are just plain stunning. The backdrops of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets had me in awe from start to finish.

In addition to the locales, the inhabitants of Alpha are also a visual treat. Each alien race is totally unique and they never stop feeling real. Most CGI-heavy movies have at least one or two shots that I can tell are CGI, but the only way I could tell the aliens in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets weren’t real was because- Well, they were aliens.

I was also enthralled by the brilliant choreography and design of the action scenes, which were all an absolute blast. The first action sequence, which takes place in two different dimensions, is one of my favorite scenes in a movie this year, and the rest of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ action isn’t far behind. Seeing Valerian and Laureline run, shoot, crash, swim, and fly through their mission made my jaw drop multiple times.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is one of the most visually impressive films I’ve ever seen (if not the most). It’s scenery, action, and aliens are all exquisite, and it’s supported even further by a fun story, great cast, and huge world. If you’re a science fiction fan, you need to see this movie.

6 thoughts on “Film Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

  1. Didn’t feel like writing my own review so I’ll just write out some of the (spoiler filled) reasons I didn’t like Valerian here:

    -Jon Goodman’s character – In the beginning Valerian steals a pearl and creature known for its pooping skills (I couldn’t stop laughing at how every time it replicated stuff it turned its butt away from camera so we didn’t actually get to see what was happening), Goodman makes a threat that he is going to kill Valerian. AKA he makes a promise that implies he will return sometime later in the movie. But he never actually acts on this promise. It is just a random throwaway conflict and waste of John Goodman.

    -Dane Dehaan’s hair was bad. He wouldn’t get as many ladies as he did with that hair.

    -The two main characters have no regard for others – In an early scene when they’re getting chased down in their school bus, Valerian and Laureline basically treat the soldiers with them like canonfodder, giving little to no effort to help them. Instead they peace out and leave them to their fate without acknowledging what happened. They definitely didn’t feel bad about it. These are our heroes?

    -The characters switch personalities – Early on we are given the impression that Valerian is more of a loose canon, do what he wants without being the most by the books guy. He doesn’t even read a mission briefing for crying out loud. Whereas Laureline kinda puts off the opposite impression. Yet somehow during the movie they exchange places, and at the end Valerian doesn’t want to give the Pearls their pooper back because it’s government property, and laureline is off repeatedly punching their commander in the face. I think they may have accidentally read each other’s lines and it was too expensive to reshoot it. Only thing that makes sense.

    -Let’s combo those last to points and add: Valerian sneaks into the area of a hostile alien group to avoid diplomatic drama / war between the species, but as soon as things look bad he murders everyone. Including the leader. What was he saying about being a good soldier? If this was on the table the whole time why not just shoot your way in? Why bring Bubble into this?

    – Speaking of Bubble, were we supposed to feel for her because she was Rihanna?

    -Their love story was the most overused one there is.

    -Speaking of: Don’t end on the words “For my dad” after just pulling out (heh) of an implied sex scene. It’s weird and creepy.

    -I thought the world building sucked. Other than the first intro, once we get to Alpha the full scope of the world is never realized because there is rarely more than one or two races of aliens in a scene together. We’re supposed to believe this is a big melting pot where everyone learns from each other and grows because of it. But there’s barely any interactions between the aliens. The skull planet thing in Guardians of the Galaxy did it way better.

    -Speaking of scope – I thought they did a huge disservice to the story by shrinking it like they did. We were told that Valerian and Laureline are going to be fighting something that threatens everyone on Alpha, but it quickly devolves into this small scale coverup because they show Clive Owen’s evil cards too soon. Oh, and there was never a doubt that the Cylons were going to attack the good guys.

    1. While I can see certain things that might irk some people, (the complaint of swapping personalities and dislike of Bubbles make no sense to me though) I still think it’s a fantastic movie.

      1. Valerian kills off the leader and the majority of a species knowing this would be a huge FU to the government but then later he wont give away the creature because it is government property. How is that consistent? He went from being a fly by the seat of his pants guy to suddenly caring about what he was supposed to do.

        As for Bubbles, I just think there was absolutely no reason to have Bubble, or that red district section, at all. If he was going to end up killing everyone anyway then just have him capable of sneaking in (he was able to turn his gun invisible but doesn’t have the technology to do it to his whole suit?). And then they kill her shortly after and we’re supposed to care? I assumed maybe that’s why they chose Rihanna since we already have a connection to her.

    2. -I completely forgot about John Goodman’s threat, not good storytelling, you are correct.
      -DeHaan is completely unbelivable as a badass or a ladies man, plus, he looks like he is fighting in slow motion. I really dug Delevigne, she should have been the star and the film kept putting her back into a box everytime she almost breaks out. “Let the men handle this” was a theme of the film.
      -I think Delevigne evolving to be less by the book is a good arc, but you are right, it just happens and is not earned. Same goes for DeHaan’s weird change of heart.
      -100% agree on the weird alien guys and bubble.
      -The love story/marriage (WTF, how long have they know each other? Have the kissed? Are they romantic before the film? I have no idea.) was TERRIBLE. If you edited it all out I think this film is pretty good.
      -I think the world building works by just volume of ideas introduced, and different types of aliens, but agree we needed more interaction. God Head did do it better.
      -Predictability was not a problem for me, I was enjoying the ride, but yes, the mystery is worthless.

      1. Also, Lauren, I can see how Valerain bothered you so much if you couldn’t even get on board with Cassian in Rogue One. Valerain’s friendly kills make his look minor.

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