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Cara Delev­ingne and Ri­hanna can­not save Luc Bes­son’s vac­u­ous block­buster

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Va­le­rian and the City of a thou­sand Plan­ets

12A Dane De­haan, Cara Delev­ingne, Ri­hanna ★★ ex­pen­sive in­de­pen­dent film ever – and writer-di­rec­tor Luc Bes­son (The Fifth El­e­ment, Lucy) has taken a mas­sive gam­ble here.

his film be­gins with the fa­mil­iar sound of David Bowie’s ‘space od­dity’ and a flimsy in­tro­duc­tion to a cou­ple of 28th cen­tury space agents. ma­jor Va­le­rian (Dane De­haan) is con­vinced his re­la­tion­ship with sergeant Lau­re­line (Cara Delev­ingne) should be­come more than pro­fes­sional, but she thinks he’s a player who can’t com­mit. their ba­sic dy­namic barely de­vel­ops for the next two hours, but after some lively if mind­less set-pieces, some­thing ap­proach­ing a plot be­gins to crys­tallise. A mys­te­ri­ous cor­ro­sive mass is threat­en­ing Al­pha, an enor­mous space me­trop­o­lis hous­ing species from a thou­sand plan­ets, in­clud­ing the hu­man race. Against the wishes of crotch­ety com­man­der Arün Filitt (Clive owen), Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line are dis­patched to dis­cover what’s be­hind it.

the film’s vis­ual ef­fects are al­ways im­pres­sive and some­times breath­tak­ing, but there’s lit­tle be­neath the sur­face sheen. Va­le­rian And The City Of A Thou­sand Plan­ets suf­fers from a crip­pling lack of heart, partly be­cause its char­ac­ters are so vac­u­ous. mis­cast, De­haan lacks the swag­ger to make Va­le­rian the wise­crack­ing hero he’s sup­posed to be, al­though he’s hardly helped by Bes­son’s hor­ri­ble leaden di­a­logue.

ri­hanna plays shape-shifter Bub­ble space agents Va­le­rian (Dane De­haan) and Lau­re­line (Cara Delev­ingne) Delev­ingne’s Lau­re­line is more con­vinc­ing, but her sig­na­ture re­ac­tions – a dis­ap­prov­ing eye roll, an irked smirk – are soon over­played. When ri­hanna ap­pears as shape-shift­ing en­ter­tainer Bub­ble, she ini­tially lifts the film. But she’s sunk too when Bes­son asks her to sup­ply emo­tional beats her char­ac­ter just hasn’t earned.

in sev­eral scenes, Bes­son and cin­e­matog­ra­pher thierry Arbogast man­age to cre­ate a world so im­mer­sive you couldn’t care less what’s hap­pen­ing in it. But most of the time, the film feels like an emo­tion­ally empty mess. it’s hard to fault Bes­son’s am­bi­tion, but his gam­ble hasn’t paid off. Nick Levine

the fifth el­e­ment Jupiter as­cend­ing

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