By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
* Spoiler Alert
Luc Bresson is a filmmaker with a fantastic range of movies under his belt. He can craft incredible material, namely The Fifth Element, and provide quality children’s entertainment in Arthur and the Invisibles. I particularly enjoyed his adaptation of the comic book The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec to film but with Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets, something got lost in the translation. His latest film had an exciting start and was off to the races with its two prologues.
Sadly, it loses steam by the third act and I found myself not caring for the hero, Valérian (Dane DeHaan), saving the day. He has to prevent an alien race from going extinct and show to Laureline (Cara Delevingne) that he’s serious about pursuing a relationship with her. Val is a philanderer, and Laureline wants nothing to do with him. They are a meant to be a crime busting duo of time-agents who should implicitly trust each other much like how Mulder and Scully have to in The X-Files. The trust needs to be earned if she is to accept his proposition to marry. This early plot reveal could have defined the entire movie, but it gets ignored during massive set pieces which communicate a different story.
More could have been done with character development, and in what gets played out about the once Earth-owned International Space Station turned Alpha Station (moved to a different part of the galaxy because it grew too big) is paper-thin. This movie is loaded with a lot of material to digest, and some of it is unneeded. Not only is it a visual feast for the eyes but also the world feels like it is out of a Frank Herbert novel.
Bresson stuffs in too much material in order to realize a crowded universe. This fact includes the possibility of having to hire several theatre troupes to represent the various aliens species encountered. The diversity is great. I liked the trio of a diminutive bird-like creature, the Shingouz. They made me think of worm aliens from the Men in Black films who look like they were borrowed from the Star Wars universe. That is, they have Wattos’ personality.
I wanted to know more about Bubbles (Rihanna), a stripper whom Valérian meets. While her dance number does well to recall Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, I wondered when all these nods would stop. Her introduction functions much like how Diva was introduced in Fifth Element. But since her striptease was meant to be private and intimate, it does not have the same cadence of in being in an opera house.
Anyone expecting to see Star Wars in Bresson’s movie will get disappointed. While I went in thinking this film will be great, I emerged out of the theatre disappointed. I would rather watch Adèle Blanc-Sec again. At least that movie had consistency in how the various tales came together.
3 Stars out of 5