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Film Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a modern telling of an old classic that has come just a little too late.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on a French comic from the 1960s following the adventures of Valerian and Laureline. In many ways, this comic and these characters are ones that inspired the biggest science fiction movie franchises of today. It’s only fair that Valerian and Laureline get their chance in the limelight.

Valerian is a stunning visual experience. The world building is immersive and interesting – you want to find out more and explore all the worlds that these characters walk through. Director Luc Besson clearly has an eye for beauty and speed and manages to allow the audience such a detailed look at what this world is.

The acting is fantastic. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne play well against each other, the banter smooth and fluid throughout that gives both their characters a sense of personality and a clear history together. They know their characters and they play them well. A lot of this story is about their relationship together and how they – particularly Valerian – grow as a person, so this is incredibly important to keep the audience from feeling lost.

Even the story itself has its positives. Writing is a little hammy in places, with what feels like unnecessary dialogue that leaned towards sexist comments about Laureline’s ability to fight or about her needing to be protected. Although some details of the plot should have been developed further – particularly when it comes to the connection between Valerian and the pearl princess - it is a satisfying story about war and its unintended causalities and human pride.

So why say that it has come too late?

Because as movie goers, we are past what Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets has to offer.

We have made it past casual sexism about whether women are capable of fighting.

We have made it past a cast of little diversity, in race or sexuality.

We have made it past the fridging of black characters for the sake of the white ones.

Valerian is based on the comics that brought, for a lot of us, our favourite tropes and scenes from childhood favourites. It has all the things we love about 20th-century sci-fi – but for a modern movie, for a modern audience, it’s just the same old thing as before.

There is no weight behind the story to make it different. Parts of the story aren’t developed enough. The antagonist, Commander Filitt, makes choices that, whilst are explained in the story, still don’t really make any sense. Laureline doesn’t get the chance to showcase just how good she actually is.

Plus, boob armour. Enough said.

Whilst it is enjoyable to watch at the time, Valerian isn’t something that will stick with you afterward. For 137 minutes, you can be swept away in a beautiful world that you barely skim the surface of and will forget by the time the credits stop rolling.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is due to be released in UK cinemas through Lionsgate on August 2nd.

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