Luc Besson is acclaimed as a visionary filmmaker who reshapes genres with every new project he touches. But his latest project, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, is far and away his most awe inspiring and personal film to date.
Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are space operatives who are governed with the protection of the space-time continuum. But the two find themselves constantly at odds because of Valerian’s wild romantic feelings for his co-pilot. When they are commanded to embark on a mission to the magnificent intergalactic metropolis of Alpha, they soon discover a sinister plot that could shake the very core of the universe and must do everything in their power to stop it.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is by no way a typical science fiction film, and I say this because of the unique setting in which it was crafted. As audience members, we’re so used to the big extravagant action filled science fiction films that are cranked out by Hollywood on a regular basis. Valerian is not one of these. Besson’s European sensibilities and style make for a cinematic experience that is far more visually striking and character driven. While there are some incredible action set pieces, Besson is more concerned with the relationship that exists between DeHaan and Delevingne as Valerian and Laureline, and how their new mission brings the two of them closer together.
Besson got lucky with his casting here. While Dane DeHaan never disappoints in Valerian he totally plays against type as the cocky and arrogant space agent who has a habit of pushing the rules to the limit. He’s also a confident ladies man whose new infatuation with his partner Laureline leads to plenty of inappropriate, yet comedic situations. While DeHaan is not the exact picture of an action hero he certainly stepped up to the plate and jumps head first into some gnarly stunt work.
But while I dug DeHaan it was Cara Delevingne as the ravishing and capable Laureline who really stole the show for me. While Delevingne coped a serious bit of flack for her performance in Suicide Squad, here in Valerian she absolutely nailed it. What I really dug about Delevingne’s performance was just how capable she was as Laureline. While normally the male hero is the one to get the damsel out of trouble, more often than not it was Laureline who had to swing in and save Valerian from his own mad heroics. Then, of course, there was the fact that she wasn’t falling for his very open advances, which made for some terrific comedic moments.
While science fiction films regularly create fantastical worlds, Valerian takes it to a whole other level. Besson, along with the geniuses at Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, craft a completely unique science fiction universe on Alpha, the city of a thousand planets. No expense has been spared in creating this beautiful futuristic landscape. Art direction, set design, costuming, lighting and score all collide together to transport the audience to a completely different vision of the future. Besson never tries to explain his fantastical world, and the film is better for it as you can just step into it and lose yourself in its stunning visuals. I’ll also admit that the film’s European tone also places emphasis on a playful sexuality that manifests itself in Rihanna’s alien Go-Go dancer Bubble. Her scenes are incredibly saucy and sprinkled with just a hint of eroticism that made for something fresh and different.
But ultimately Valerian belongs to Besson who after more than forty years has finally brought his grand vision for his beloved childhood obsession to the screen. It’s easy to feel the passion in a cinematic work, and you definitely feel it here. Every frame bursts with a sense of artistic nirvana as a world that was once considered impossible to realise on screen is brought to life in beautiful, vibrant extravagance.
If you’re looking to take a fantastical trip into outer space then Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is one ship to board. Visually imaginative and filled to the brim with heartfelt passion, it’s a fantastic cinematic rollercoaster.
Image: EOne Films