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‘Lucy’ director Luc Besson makes a comeback to the world of sci-fi with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Full Movie, serving up an impressive, expensive journey whose creativity outweighs its more uneven elements.
A long time ago in our very own galaxy, Luc Besson longed for directing a film adaption of “Valérian and Laureline,” a sexy French comic book franchise starring a pair of futuristic crime fighters who travel through space and time to sustain peace. Although audiences consider the source material to have been inspired by George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” film, the equation obviously works the other way around in Besson’s hands, as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Full Movie spots the director knowing his best how to do “Star Wars” impression.
It’s a bold goal in the industry that hasn’t conventionally been quite welcoming to “Star Wars” imitators, but Besson is one of the few living directors has both the intention and the power to create his own rival universe. At a time when “Star Wars” has gone shared (for certain, the tight control has brought some of the franchise’ best arcs), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Full Movie successes in being both cutting-edge and blissfully old-school – the sort of wild, unceasingly creative joyful ride that only the director of “Lucy” and “The Fifth Element” could bring, built as an episodic chains of missions, scrapes and near-misses including an underwhelming array of environments and astonishing CG alien characters.
It’s such a shame that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Full Movie himself is such a dud. Described as a type of cocky intergalactic lothario, Valerian should have been as sexy and charming as a young Han Solo, though “Chronicle” star Dane DeHaan appears incapable of portraying the sort of distant indifference that made Harrison Ford so irresistible. Despite holding the rank of major, Valerian seems like an overgrown child, overcompensating through an unpersuasively abrupt false Keanu Reeves accent.
Luckily, his co-star is just cool enough for the both: As portrayed by British fashion model Cara Delevingne (downright stiff in last summer’s blockbuster “Suicide Squad”, but a true advancement here: sassy, humorous and natural), Laureline bears true to one of Besson’s key beliefs: nothing’s sexier than a bold, empowered leading woman. Sure, she needs to be saved at times, but more often than not, she’s the one helping Valerian out. She’s just a sergeant, but every bit as capable as her leading officer, and the movie is frankly more interesting when following her character.
The chemistry between the two might be strange, but they make a good duo, relentlessly trying to prove themselves to one another while each pretending not to actually care. When they were first together, Valerian proposes to Laureline — a weirdly old-fashioned question, given taking place the 28th century, that seems like a 1950s ploy to attract the virginal preacher’s daughter. Still, in so many aspects, she appears worldlier than her counterpart, right down to the movie’s climactic line, in which Laureline teaches Valerian the meaning of love.
Most of the time, he’s too busy following orders to stop and wonder what his superiors are demanding, but such blind obedience has its bounds, since the story of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Full Movie involves a vast military cover up for an upheaval Besson describes in the movie’s opening scenes: the near-destruction of a seemingly primeval, yet peaceful species called Pearls. Tall, slender and barely dressed, like “Avatar’s” Na’vi, with bald heads and colorful opaline skin, the Pearl are the most sophisticated and meaningful of the film’s many CG aliens. Their long limbs grant them a graceful, supermodel walk, while their faces are nuanced enough to deliver even subtle emotions — evidence to just how graceful performance capture technology has developed, even in someone other than Andy Serkis’ hands.
Such innovations make it feasible for Besson to develop upon the multiculturalism brought by the “Star Wars” franchise in a big way, taking the mingling of species in the iconic cantina sequence and expanding it to a vast city called Alpha, where an almost infinite number of aliens delightfully stick to their roles (like a pre-equal-opportunity Zootopia), while humans of all colors lead the show (involving Herbie Hancock as the city’s Minister of Defense). Without any doubt, there are dark and dirty “Blade Runner”-esque corners to this ultra-modern megalopolis, but Besson is never sticks around long enough for us to play more than stop-by tourist as he follows Valerian and Laureline through these multiple worlds.
Generally, Besson works at a fast clip, using dynamic framing and intense editing to deliver tons of visual detail on the go. The film is intended to lead us from one cliffhanger to another, and it’s incredibly effective at doing so without giving a clear notion of what the pair’s mission is supposed to be. Early on, they arrive at Big Market, a huge virtual-reality bazaar where Valerian manages to gain a lovely, ultra-rare creature called Mül Converter, which can make copies of anything it eats but itself, from a Jabba the Hutt-like black marketeer narrated by John Goodman.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Full Movie kicks in during the Big Market scene, which is where viewers first feel like we’re watching a genuinely visionary new environment for the first time in our lives — though Besson manages to remain that effect across the movie’s time on Alpha. There we encounter Commander Arun Filitt (Clive Owen), the four-star general who’s been taking advantage of Valerian to help achieving his own cowardly agenda, and underwhelmed by a world of eye-popping clothes. Besson’s script may sometimes leave something to be desired, but one can hardly criticize the way he dresses his character, as costume designer Olivier Bériot provides us a sample of the fashion from the future (so innovative that it could take years for sci-fi to catch up).
In one case — that Bubble (portrayed by Rihanna, when appears in human form) — a shape-shifting alien actually serves as a sort of elaborate costume, wrapping herself around Valerian so he can penetrate the dangerous gluttons who aim to ingest his lovely Laureline. In a neat trick, Bubble can remove her hat and alter whole outfits, making for the galaxy’s sexiest exotic dance routine.
Even Besson, who made the world believe that Milla Jovovich could actually act (in “The Fifth Element”), can’t save Rihanna’s awkward line readings. But that’s a small drawback regarding what the director gains from Delevingne: She doesn’t just save Alpha; she saves the whole film as well. And though viewers may not be greatly demanding for a Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Full Movie sequel after this, another “Laureline” journey would be most appreciated.