Valerian is one wild ride
The Fifth Element.
Besson’s translation of the comics is polarising. The cast are too young, the plotting is just too silly (I scrawled Avatargoes-to-Sesame Street in my notebook. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I’ll stand by it).
What I laughingly refer to as my credibility is probably about to take a dent bigger than the one it received when I said I liked Speed Racer .ButI absolutely, flat out, completely indefensibly loved Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
Besson (who also had a hand in the screenplay) is at his best when he lets his imagination off the leash and makes a film for the sheer pleasure of putting on a show.
And Valerian gives him every opportunity to go bat-poo mad with the digital crayons.
As a feat of design – glaring, absurd, joyous and insane design – Valerian won’t easily be toppled. We tend to save our praise for the gloom-ridden visions of Blade Runner and its ilk, while being dismissive of anything candy-coloured and hilarious.
But what Besson and his team have done here – on the biggest screen you can find – is just startling. The opening stanza, featuring Dane DeHaan – who is actually 31 years old, but looks about 12-and-a-half – being pursued through a transdimensional 28th-century mall by an intergalactic, multispecies goon squad sets the tone for a film that refuses to ever rest, explain itself or play by the rules.
If you like your sci-fi at the Douglas Adams, Doctor Who and Terry Pratchett end of the scale, then you might like this Valerian as much as I did.
The plot, what there is of it, mostly revolves around a conspiracy to cover up the destruction of the home world of the people of Mul. All of whom look – in a nice way – like the progeny of Kate Moss and a Klingon.
The planet of hairless and mostly naked vaguely reptiloid supermodels got caught in the crossfire of some great interstellar bust-up years before. And it’s pretty obvious that Clive Owen – an actor who almost always looks slightly miscast, here playing the requisite Brit baddie – is in it up to his vaguely Nazi-esque, but lime-green, breeches.
In truth, the plot is just an excuse to fling DeHaan, Cara Delevingne – as Laureline – and sundry others into a succession of set-pieces that can only escalate in their ludicrousness.
The Rihanna-as-shapeshifting-burlesque-dancer scene that is all over the trailers exists for no reason other than that it can.
But as a feat of design and film-making it’s going to be ripped-off and imitated for years.
By bombarding us with spectacle in every frame, Besson keeps us watching, but never actually absorbed. But, for all that, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets kept me grinning pretty much from beginning to end. – Graeme Tuckett
As a feat of design – glaring, absurd, joyous and insane design – Valerian won’t easily be toppled.