Vi­sion­ary vi­su­als

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Va­le­rian And The City Of A Thou­sand Plan­ets

Di­rec­tor: Luc Bes­son

Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delev­ingne, Clive Owen, Ri­hanna, Ethan Hawke, Her­bie Han­cock, Kris Wu, Rut­ger Hauer

WITH the comic book movie spot­light hogged by Marvel and DC su­per­heroes these days, it’s a pity that Va­le­rian And The City Of A Thou­sand Stars hasn’t quite got­ten the amount of hype it de­serves.

Af­ter all, it IS based on one of the most in­flu­en­tial sci-fi comics of all time – clas­sic French science fic­tion comic se­ries Va­le­rian And Lau­re­line, cre­ated by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres.

First pub­lished in France’s Pilote mag­a­zine in 1967, its blend of ad­ven­ture and space opera has in­flu­enced some of the mod­ern age’s most pop­u­lar sci-fi/fan­tasy fran­chises, in­clud­ing Star Wars.

Set in a fu­ture where hu­mans have dis­cov­ered how to travel through time and space al­most in­stan­ta­neously, the story re­volves around “spa­tio-tem­po­ral agents” Ma­jor Va­le­rian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Lau­re­line (Cara Delev­ingne), who work for the Ter­ran Ga­lac­tic Em­pire. Dash­ing, loyal, but reck­less, Va­le­rian is one of the em­pire’s best agents, as is Lau­re­line, who comes across as a lot more com­pe­tent than her part­ner at times.

The film opens with a mis­sion at a place called Big Mar­ket, an in­ter­ga­lac­tic shop­ping mall that shop­pers have to wear vir­tual re­al­ity gog­gles to ac­cess.

There, Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line have to re­trieve a cute lit­tle crea­ture called a “Con­verter”, which can ap­par­ently makes copies of any sub­stance or ma­te­rial it in­gests (even di­a­mond and pearls!), and bring it back to Al­pha, the tit­u­lar “City Of A Thou­sand Plan­ets”.

Lit­tle do they know that ob­tain­ing the Con­verter would set off a chain re­ac­tion of events that threat­ens not just safety of Al­pha, but also the Ter­ran Em­pire it­self.

The open­ing Big Mar­ket set piece is our first in­di­ca­tion of the vast, hugely imag­i­na­tive world Va­le­rian is set in.

Di­rec­tor Luc Bes­son is no stranger to build­ing imag­i­na­tive science-fic­tion worlds (The Fifth El­e­ment is a great ex­am­ple), but he has out­done him­self this time.

Vis­ually, Va­le­rian is stun­ning – draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the comic book se­ries – and he adds his own flour­ishes, mix­ing and match­ing el­e­ments to cre­ate a colour­ful, vivid, di­verse uni­verse that you truly want to im­merse your­self in fur­ther.

Un­for­tu­nately, the rest of the movie doesn’t quite match up to the majesty of Bes­son’s vi­sion.

The plot it­self draws from sev­eral of the sto­ries from the lon­grun­ning se­ries, but most heav­ily from 1975’s Am­bas­sador Of Shad­ows. It’s a de­cent enough story that some­how fails to re­ally cap­ture your at­ten­tion or de­liver much be­yond show­ing off the movie’s vis­ual won­ders.

The two leads give rel­a­tively com­pe­tent per­for­mances, though the baby-faced DeHaan seems more suited to be one of the Spy Kids rather than the smoothtalk­ing, womanising agent that Va­le­rian is sup­posed to be.

Delev­ingne fares much bet­ter as Lau­re­line; her per­for­mance here at least out­shines her in­sipid role as the En­chantress in Sui­cide Squad.

How­ever, the less said about Ri­hanna’s per­for­mance the bet­ter (though she at least gets a pretty fab­u­lous dance se­quence).

Sure, I did ex­pect a lit­tle bit more from the fran­chise that had such a big in­flu­ence on Star Wars and the rest of the science-fic­tion genre.

But all in all, Va­le­rian And The City Of A Thou­sand Plan­ets is worth a watch just to im­merse your­self into the vis­ually bril­liant world Bes­son cre­ated.

— Rain­film

‘Stop stand­ing around, Va­le­rian. Get back to work, work, work, work, work ...’

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