Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


Box Office $41.19 million;
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language.
Stars Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer.

Writer-director Luc Besson’s Valerian has the same elaborate world-building and goofy sci-fi charm as his 1997 film The Fifth Element. Indeed, one might assume this were a sequel to the previous film if they weren’t set 500 years apart. A shared universe, perhaps?

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on “Valérian and Laureline,” a French comic strip popular in Besson’s home country when he was growing up. Subtly or overtly, the relatively obscure source material has inspired numerous sci-fi properties since its debut in 1967, and may even have inspired Besson as he was creating Fifth Element. Certainly, like John Carter before it, the film may seem to evoke better-known properties if only because the source material was so influential to begin with.

Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) stars as Valerian and Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad) plays Laureline, soldiers in a 28th century federation. Their mission to retrieve a rare creature gets them involved in a grander conspiracy.

The film begins with an engrossing hook, as the early years of humanity’s space exploration yields leads to encounters with aliens on an ever-growing International Space Station, which after several decades becomes too large to remain in Earth orbit and is set adrift into deep space. As more creatures visit and add to the station over the centuries that pass, it becomes the enormous multicultural city of the film’s title.

Eventually, Valerian and Laureline make their way to the city for a series of spectacular chases that will yield answers to the mysteries at hand. But first, they visit a grand bazaar on a desert world, ingeniously rendered via a multi-dimensional plane requiring shoppers to wear special glasses to inspect merchandise that is slightly out of phase with our reality (special boxes exist to transfer items from one dimension to the next).

The film is a visual spectacle, no doubt, and every bit as colorful and out there as one would expect from the filmmaker responsible for The Fifth Element, Lucy and Arthur and the Invisibles.

The Blu-ray includes several lengthy featurettes detailing Besson’s vision and the making of the film.

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