FILM REVIEW: Valerian frustrating but just about watchable

Valerian
Valerian
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FILM REVIEW: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS (12A)

SHOWCASE CINEMA DE LUX PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW

CAST: DANE DEHAAN, CARA DELEVINGNE, SAM SPRUELL, CLIVE OWEN, ETHAN HAWKE, RIHANNA, KRIS WU, HERBIE HANCOCK, RUTGER HAUER & THE VOICES OF ELIZABETH DEBICKI & JOHN GOODMAN

RUNNING TIME: 2 HRS 17 MINS

DIRECTOR: LUC BESSON

The most hit-and-miss summer blockbuster comes in the form of this big-budget space opera from the cult director of The Fifth Element.

You’d be hard pressed to find a film with some noteworthy pluses, that are instantly eliminated by annoying minuses – which leaves this disappointingly in ‘this should have been so much better’ territory.

As a dark force threatens Alpha – a vast sprawling 
metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets – special operatives Major Valerian (Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Suicide Squad’s Cara Delevingne) must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard the future of the universe, providing support to Clive Owen’s shady commander.

The positives come in the form of a beautifully-crafted, heavily-stylised world straight from the Besson handbook we’ve seen in Element, and other films such as Lucy. Seemingly taking pieces from all major sci-fiers such as Star Wars, Star Trek and even Avatar, this jaw-droppingly-rendered backdrop, with the two amiable – albeit wooden – lead characters proving likeable to boot, really gets the ‘eye candy’ basics right. But sadly that’s where the good news ends.

Negatively – and this is the side you either loved or hated about The Fifth Element – it ventures into zany ‘out there’ territory with bizarre side stories – Rihanna’s ‘bubble’ sub-plot alongside Ethan Hawke’s pimp unnecessarily stops the flow of the movie for example – that really ramps up the bloated run-time. But the main problem – which is absolutely astonishing – is the cliché-ridden script that is devoid of any ingenuity whatsoever. Every basic phrase and stereotypical soundbite created seems to be used in the movie, which will leave you scratching your head in disbelief. Who bloody wrote this thing?

That said – despite being a major missed opportunity that has bombed financially – there’s still a certain hokey Besson charm that makes it just about watchable despite the unintentionally funny screenplay constantly tarnishing any potential progress.

Which sadly leaves Valerian with an alluring city of truly frustrating irritation.

Rating: 2.5/5 – Gavin Miller