Va­le­rian a rip-roar­ing spec­ta­cle but fails to touch the heart


Bray People - - ENTERTAINMENT -

IN 1997, French writer-di­rec­tor Luc Bes­son wowed Hol­ly­wood with his flashy sci-fi epic the Fifth El­e­ment star­ring Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis.

Au­di­ences re­acted more favourably than some crit­ics and the most ex­pen­sive Euro­pean film of the decade made a tidy profit at the box of­fice.

Ever since, Bes­son has been dream­ing of the day that dig­i­tal ef­fects tech­nol­ogy will al­low him to re­alise Pierre Christin and Jean- Claude Mezieres’ comic se­ries Va­le­rian And Lau­re­line on the big screen. The 20-year wait is over. Armed with a re­ported bud­get of around 200 mil­lion US dol­lars, the charis­matic film­maker de­liv­ers a rip-roar­ing spec­ta­cle that as­saults the eyes but sel­dom touches the heart.

Va­le­rian And the City Of A Thou­sand Plan­ets brazenly melds el­e­ments of Star Wars and Avatar to ex­plore the de­struc­tion of oth­er­worldly races in the 28th cen­tury.

It’s ev­i­dent that this is the open­ing salvo of a po­ten­tial fran­chise but it’s hard to see fur­ther ad­ven­tures for these poorly sketched char­ac­ters when on-screen chem­istry be­tween leads Dane DeHaan and Cara Delev­ingne is in­ert and plot­ting is so hap­haz­ard.

An eye-catch­ing sup­port­ing role for pop star Ri­hanna as a shape-shift­ing pole dancer is a pleas­ing dis­trac­tion but com­pletely su­per­flu­ous to the ram­bling nar­ra­tive that loudly bangs a drum for tol­er­ance and un­der­stand­ing in a time of con­flict and racial ten­sion.

The spe­cial ef­fects-laden romp cen­tres on gung-ho time-trav­el­ling agent Ma­jor Va­le­rian (DeHaan) and his sassy part­ner, Sergeant Lau­re­line (Delev­ingne).

The bick­er­ing love­birds are en­listed to steal a rare crea­ture known as a Con­verter, which can repli­cate any­thing it swal­lows, from the clutches of space pi­rate Igon Siruss (voiced by John Good­man).

The mis­sion goes awry but Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line es­cape with the pre­cious cargo and de­liver the crea­ture to Com­man­der Arun Filitt (Clive Owen) aboard the space sta­tion Al­pha, where hun­dreds of alien races live in har­mony.

This vast out­post of al­most 30 mil­lion res­i­dents speak­ing 5,000 lan­guages is over­seen by Cap­tain Neza (Kris Wu) and his crew.

Sup­pos­edly ex­tinct hu­manoids in­fil­trate Al­pha and abduct Com­man­der Filitt on Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line’s watch.

They give chase and stum­ble upon a wider con­spir­acy in­volv­ing the de­struc­tion of an alien world many years ago.

The search for painful an­swers leads to a night­club run by Jolly the Pimp (Ethan Hawke), whose star per­former is a shape-shift­ing crea­ture named Bubble (Ri­hanna).

Va­le­rian And the City Of A Thou­sand Plan­ets grinds through the gears, or­ches­trat­ing breath­less ac­tion se­quences to dis­tract from the work­man­like script.

DeHaan is so laid­back as the tit­u­lar hero that he might as well be in hy­per sleep, while Delev­ingne wears the fu­tur­is­tic cos­tumes with elan.

The iden­tity of the chief vil­lain is hi­lar­i­ously ev­i­dent but Bes­son and his scriptwrit­ers in­sist on bid­ing their time be­fore the an­ti­cli­mac­tic big re­veal.

RAT­ING: 4.5/10

Dane DeHaan as Ma­jor Va­le­rian as Ri­hanna as Bubble in Va­le­ri­anAndTheCi­tyOfA Thou­sandPlan­ets.

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