Even though his trajectory is far from flawless, the french filmmaker Luc Besson is still one of the most imaginative creators working today in the film industry. Producer of numerous franchises and director of cult movies such as Léon or the sci-fi classic The fifth element, the european director still owns a lot of credit today even though some late misses, so when I heard about an expensive but independent adaptation of a classical sci-fi french comic-book that inspired Star wars (among others) I knew the movie would be at least interesting, as failed as its casting choices may be (a point I didn´t fully agree with, given that I appreciate Cara Delevingne´s carisma, and I thought it suited a movie that didn´t look to be taken seriously). So I went to the ODEON Covent Garden to enjoy the movie with moderate expectations but knowing that, apart from the general quality, I would have a good time. And I found what I was expecting, even a little bit better. Is certainly a problematic movie, way too long and full of thin characters and convoluted and uninteresting plot points, but its rhythm, sense of humor and inspired visual creativity and world building make it a very funny piece of entertainment.
After two centuries of international relationships, the International Space Station has abandoned earth orbit and became Alpha, the city of a thousand planets, home of hundreds of species and civilizations. Core of the human Federation, is now harmed by a growing infectious zone, and the secret police division will need the help of the super-agent couple of Valerian (a cheeky Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (an over the top and likable Cara Delenvigne), which will go though a dangerous covert mission to regain the last specimen of a lost species and protect the fate of the galaxy. An action comedy full of aliens, spaceships and all sorts of crazy futuristic imagery. An intrige of extinct civilizations, hidden plots and government secrets, travelling through planets, dimensions and cities of exuberant visual logistics. Arbogast´s photography and Desplat score doesn´t highlight, but the production and costume design creates some powerful images and a continuous sense of wonder and interest. The brief but tasty additions of Rutger Hauer and the shapeshifter alien played by Rihanna contributes to the films successes. His non-stoping pace, his exciting sequences and that great number of locations make this sci-fi movie a rollercoaster of light fantasy and cool adventure, and accesible movie for families, audiences and critics. A movie weirder and riskier than the average blockbusters, but with more personality, more effective humor and an conception of editing that transition that makes it even better from a mere entertainment point of view. If this movie just pretends to be entertaining, it sure is.
While its pace and visual flare make for a hell of an entertainment, the inner substance of the plot is amazingly thin, and this speedy story makes no emotional impact on the viewer. And their main couple lacks chemistry, and can´t being taken seriously as smart and dangerous space james bond´s. The dialogues doesn´t work most of the time, the runtime is too long and the main point of the movie feels sadly inconsequential, even though its convoluted plot of simple explanation revolves around the fate of an interesting civilization. His handling of tragedy and strong emotions, as in some child movies, feels on the nose and over-evident. Is a movie that doesn´t transform anyone or disturbs any cinephile conscience, but is far from a bad movie, and a really interesting option if you like movie escapism, and by far the most ingenious blockbuster out there.
Strange, funny, exotic and rascal, Valerian and the city of a thousand planets is a pointless story but a funny exercise of mindless entertainment and visual imagination. 6,7/10