Very few movies have the ability to make me audibly say “WOW” in the theater. I did that four times in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. It is easily one of the most visually stunning movies I’ve ever seen and evokes the same imagination and wonder as Avatar and Tomorrowland. That’s right, I said it. Luc Besson (heavy on the O, apparently, I always pronounced it BEHson, it’s BehSOHN) is a mad genius. I create worlds for a living and he made me look like a 4-year-old playing “make-believe” in the front yard.
To set the tone at the very beginning of the movie, we’re thrust into space. From the moon landing to the establishment of the first space station, we see humankind evolving. 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. Then the inevitable happens, we meet extra terrestrial life, and in the spirit of cooperation they’re all joining our space station and sharing resources/info with everyone, calling it simply “Alpha”, or the beginning. At one point, the mass of ships and stations becomes its own planetary ecosystem and threatens the safety of earth, needing to be pushed out of orbit. They set course for the vast unknown to drift into eternity and keep growing, into the city of a thousand planets. We hit the 22nd century, 24th century, 27th century. It’s insane the timeframe. Although I think Asimov’s “The Currents of Space” was set in the year 11 thousand, but that’s immaterial.
Adapted from the french comic book “Valerian and Laureline”, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets chronicles our two unlikely heroes in a space-time inter-dimensional struggle against an unknown force that seeks to destroy Alpha. I only say unlikely because this is the only gripe I had with the movie. I actually like them both as actors and this movie has a crazy babe factor because I’m completely obsessed with Cara Delevingne. But… Valerian (Dane Dehaan) is supposed to be this square-jawed brute, and both of them trained to be these great agents in Galaxity, I don’t buy it. If you subscribe to the ‘new order’ where masculinity and machismo are replaced by femininity and strong (but not exploited) feminine sexuality, I suppose you could come to terms with it. They have exosuits, which give them heightened abilities, so let’s say our skinny avengers might be exactly what Alpha needs. Their meet-cute is fantastic, but I won’t spoil that.
You can see elements of Star Wars and 5th Element were borrowed from the comics, and a little bit of that shows through in the fantastical creatures, great music, imaginative futuristic settings and stunning visuals presented by Luc Besson. It is beautiful, yet at times falls a little flat, but…I’m sure it’ll grow on me the more times I see it, like 5th Element. There is nothing in theaters I would recommend seeing more than this film.