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...

Fortean Times - - Reviews/Films - Leyla Mikkelsen

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

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