Lost in space
Luc Besson brings his bande dessinée passion project to the screen at last – but the results are an unsatisfying mixed bag of stunning visuals, miscast leads and a meandering narrative...
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Dir Luc Besson, France 2017 On UK release
Luc Besson is responsible for several memorable and innovative cinematic efforts such as Nikita, Léon and The Fifth
Element, and there’s no question that his distinct style has left its mark on the cinema. With Valerian and the City of a Thousand
Planets, Besson’s lifelong quest to bring the world of the highly influential Valérian and Laureline science-fiction comic series to life is finally complete, and the result of this independently financed passion project is undoubtedly one of the most visually stunning films to be released this year.
The Fifth Element mixed vivid visuals with snappy humour and snappier editing, and Valerian, with its similar style and tone, gives the impression that the two films could easily be part of the same cinematic universe.
Valerian’s opening sequence and the subsequent introduction to the people of Mül are both equally gorgeous and moving. The mission sequence that follows showcases just how interesting and layered this particular world is, and Besson continues this detailed world-building throughout the film by utilising digital effects to their fullest to create mesmerising visuals. That initial mission is also more than just a particularly entertaining action set piece, as it makes it very evident just how much inspiration George Lucas took from the Valérian and Laureline comics when creating his Star
Wars universe. The problem is that it’s therefore also all too easy to compare the dynamics ofValerian and Laureline’s relationship to the interactions of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Carrie Fisher’s Leia in the Star Wars films. While the performances of Ford and Fisher are considered iconic thanks to a combination of excellent casting and remarkable chemistry, DeHaan and Delevingne are not only both miscast, they also fail to strike any sparks off each other at all, which makes it impossible for the viewer to invest in them.
DeHaan and Delevingne are not entirely to blame for the film’s inability to engage its audience, though; DeHaan has proven his merit as an actor elsewhere, and Delevingne does the best she can. Instead, the main issue is rather Besson’s lacklustre, half-baked script. Not only is the film full of stilted dialogue, but the structure of both character arcs, as well as the progression of the overarching narrative, are weighed down constantly by a highly convoluted plot; if this were easier to follow, it wouldn’t be such a problem, but the focus all too often shifts to the myriad of visually stunning but narratively disengaging detours. As a result, Valerian and
the City of a Thousand Planets is undeniably breathtaking in terms of its visual achievements, but as a story it simply fails.
It’s evident how much inspiration George Lucas took from the comics