Bes­son’s stars fail to shine

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket -

It’s com­mon knowl­edge that many cin­e­matic sci-fi ad­ven­tures have been heav­ily in­flu­enced by Star Wars – but what helped in­spire Ge­orge Lu­cas’ iconic saga set in a gal­axy far, far away?

Lu­cas has ad­mit­ted he bor­rowed ideas from Ja­panese di­rec­tor Akira Kuro­sawa’s work, but French comics se­ries Valérian and Lau­re­line – first pub­lished 10 years be­fore A New Hope hit the big screens – pro­pelled sev­eral of the con­cepts, sto­ry­lines and de­signs found through­out the orig­i­nal Star Wars tril­ogy.

It’s sur­pris­ing, then, that it has taken this long for a movie ver­sion of Valerian to come along; and it’s all thanks to the ded­i­ca­tion and drive of French helmer Luc Bes­son.

As well as di­rect­ing and writ­ing the script, Bes­son in­de­pen­dently crowd-sourced and per­son­ally funded the project, co-pro­duc­ing with wife Vir­ginie Bes­son-Silla, and the flick’s es­ti­mated $177-210 mil­lion bud­get makes it both the most ex­pen­sive Euro­pean and in­de­pen­dent film of all time.

Whop­ping pro­duc­tion costs, a comic book ori­gin, in­flu­enc­ing Star Wars and di­rected by the cre­ative mind be­hind The Fifth El­e­ment – it’s safe to say Valerian and the City of a Thou­sand Plan­ets ar­rives with some weighty ex­pec­ta­tions.

Sadly Bes­son may have been too fo­cused on getting the film off the ground to con­cen­trate on hir­ing the best ac­tors to bring his dream project to life.

Dane DeHaan (Ma­jor Valerian) and Cara Delevingne (Sergeant Lau­re­line) aren’t quite Natalie Port­man and Hay­den Chris­tensen in the Star Wars pre­quels-bad, but don’t con­vince as spe­cial op­er­a­tives out to save the uni­verse.

It’s the sup­port­ing play­ers – par­tic­u­larly Ethan Hawke (Jolly the Pimp) and Ri­hanna (Bub­ble) – that make more of an im­pres­sion and the lack of fist-pump­ing hero­ism and chem­istry be­tween the two leads is a real hin­drance to the ad­ven­ture.

For­tu­nately, Bes­son and his pro­duc­tion team fare much bet­ter when it comes to de­sign­ing the jaw-drop­ping pix­els be­hind a se­ries of bril­liantly bizarre crea­tures, cityscapes and in­ter­plan­e­tary di­men­sions.

If you thought The Fifth El­e­ment was a kalei­do­scope of vibrant vi­su­als then you ain’t seen noth­ing yet as Valerian and Lau­re­line rarely get a minute’s peace dur­ing a mul­ti­tude of mem­o­rable en­coun­ters packed with danger.

But Bes­son strug­gles to pad out the two-hour­plus run­ning time with enough in­ter­est­ing plot points and there’s a stretch in the mid­dle third where it feels like ev­ery­one is just killing time un­til the per­ilous fi­nal mis­sion kicks in.

As a re­sult, this is far from the French­man’s finest, but it is a def­i­nite im­prove­ment on his pre­vi­ous film – the vastly over­rated Lucy.

How­ever, it’s hard to see Valerian the movie in­flu­enc­ing fu­ture sci-fi in the man­ner of its comic fore­bear.

On a dif­fer­ent planet DeHaan and Delevingne in ac­tion

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