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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 137 minutes.


I am no fan of fantasies consisting of impossible characters who could never exist anywhere, dominated by visual effects. However, in this case the visual effects (Scott Stokdyk) are stunning and should be a big Oscar® contender. Alone, they are worth the price of admission. So, given that bias, it should be meaningful that for me this was a highly viewable adventure, long as it is. It has outstanding pace despite the length. Naturally the special effects are terrific. But unlike other films of its ilk, this has a pretty good script and an understandable story that makes sense.

Sure, the characters are preposterous and the action impossible, but once you accept the premise, that there is a place in space to which creatures from all over the universe have flocked to share knowledge, you can go along for the ride.

The way computers are presented as wonderful slaves 700 years hence is also interesting and believable.

But there was one unsettling relationship that I didn’t buy, and that’s the romance between the two stars Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne). She is so hard, so unsmiling, so unsympathetic, that his attraction to her is hard to accept, despite her beautiful face.

Written and directed by Luc Besson, everything about the film is good and entertaining. If only he had created the Laureline character to have some feminine characteristics, like softness, a sense of humor, and compassion. When I was sitting in the theater waiting for the film to start there was a promo poster on the screen showing the stars. I said to my assistant, about Delevingne’s picture, “She looks hard as a rock.” And that’s the way she played her character. I obviously haven’t read the comic books upon which this film is based so don’t know if that’s the way she appears in print. But she is a completely indifferent character and does not inspire romantic feelings, at least she didn’t in me.

There is some misrepresentation in promotion for this film, though, that needs to be pointed out. It claims to “star” Ethan Hawke, Clive Owen, and Herbie Hancock. Nonsense. Owen’s role is particularly small, probably shot in a couple of days. But Hawke and Hancock aren’t on screen for much more time. These people are performing little more than cameos and they shouldn’t be advertised as main players. This is a deceit that lots of producers foist on their audience and it should be stopped.

The truth is that none add anything to the movie and it would be just as good without them.