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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is Both Beautiful & Nonsensical (Review)

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I knew I’d like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as soon as I saw the trailers.  Fair warning, I liked Valerian for exactly the same reason I liked Gods of Egypt.  Visuals were simply stunning.  Whether it’s underwater scenes (in a space station!) or inter-dimensional market place or just the weird poof as ships emerged from their FTL space, everything was lavishly, generously, obscenely wonderful to look at.  I haven’t seen attention to aesthetics like this since Avatar, and I think this might be better.

valerian_and_the_city_of_a_thousand_planets_ver13A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.


The thing I liked most about this film was its character design.  There were sleek and deadly killbots,  the aquatic people build like supermodels who move like dancers,  cobra-dogs and so many more.  They all felt so believable and existed seamlessly in this extraordinary world.  This is what Sci-Fi is all about for me – the bizarre and varied possibilities of other species and cultures.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets offered that up in spades.

first-Valerian-and-the-City-of-a-Thousand-Planets-sci-fiFor anyone who reads my reviews regularly (hi mom) here’s something you’ll never hear me say again: the writing didn’t matter.  It really didn’t.  From the first couple scenes it becomes obvious that the plot only needs to be there as a tour guide for the visual journey.   The dialogue was awkward and off-putting and the character motivations didn’t make much sense (at least for the two main characters).  I get the sense I’d missed a bit of backstory, or lost something in translation somewhere.  Doesn’t matter.

Valerian_teaser_trailerI really kinda liked the casting choices.  Dane DeHaan was oddly hot. I didn’t think so at first but then but nothing like a generous dollop of fan service to change my mind.  Cara Delevigne was probably similar (no dog in that fight).  But their conversations were odd and stilted; they seemed to have no real chemistry. Maybe I missed something in translation.  But all other characters were normal – it was only strange when the two main characters talked to each other.  You get used to it quickly though, it’s easy to move past.  I liked Clive Owen and Sam Spruell were great as the Earth military guys and Rihanna was amazing (trust me, you’ll see).

valerian-trailerWhile watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, I kept thinking about The Fifth Element (1997).  I couldn’t put my finger on why, until I learned that the Valerian’s director, Luc Besson, also directed Fifth Element.  It has the same vibe – alien civilians going about their mundane lives, impossible things that impress tourist but bore the locals, spectacular events that can only happen in a Sci-Fi universe (similar to the Opera in Fifth Element).  The Mondoshawans were there and possibly a few more cameos.  

45So is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets worth seeing?  Hell yes, I’ve already seen it twice.  It has caused me to rethink my movie length requirement – turns out you can have a movie over two hours as long as you fill every second with jaw-dropping visuals.  The feeling this film gave me was:  wonder.  I just sat there and stared and soaked it in.  My logical brain turned off and I just enjoyed the pretty lights.  

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