Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2 stars)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Cara Delevingne brings star wattage to an eye-catching but messy sci-fi from Luc Besson

French director Luc Besson returns to the outlandish sci-fi stylings of his 1997 film The Fifth Element. This time, he's adapting Valérian and Laureline, the Gallic comic series written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières. It's a similarly messy, if eye-catching intergalactic yarn – albeit benefitting from the presence of British model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne as Laureline, a cool, capable pilot working for the Federation who patrols the galaxy with her partner Valerian (Dane DeHaan), who has the hots for her.

After a classy David Bowie-flanked intro that succinctly conveys the evolution of space travel, the story proper starts in the 28th century, as our heroes recover a small creature named a Convertor. The last remaining such life-form, they take it to Alpha – the titular city of a thousand planets, where aliens and humans live in harmony. There, they meet Commander Arün Filitt (Clive Owen), and gradually unearth a cover-up involving a near-extinct race of creatures from the paradise-like planet Mül.

Besson makes extensive use of CGI to realise these myriad worlds. Most impressive is Paradise Alley, a pleasure zone where Valerian meets Jolly the Pimp (Ethan Hawke) and his shape-shifting alien Bubble (a forgettable, wooden Rihanna). But other areas – like an inter-dimensional trading zone called the Big Market – fail to register. It doesn't help that it feels like Star Wars 'scapes regurgitated – ironic given George Lucas's original trilogy borrowed from the Valérian comics.

While the Valerian-Laureline chemistry is watchable enough, despite DeHaan sleepwalking through his role, the big issue is that Besson fails to generate any real sense of danger. Putting all his stock in fancy 3D chases, it hardly helps that the film's ultimate villain – no spoilers here – is also a damp squib. Thank heavens then for Cara, who saves the day in more ways than one.

General release from Wed 2 Aug.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • France/US
  • 2h 17min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Luc Besson
  • Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Kris Wu, John Goodman, Ethan Hawke, Rutger Hauer
  • UK release: 2 August 2017

Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) are space-station police officers who uncover a plot involving a near-extinct race of creatures. Besson puts all his stock in fancy 3D chases but fails to provide a decent villain; it’s all very eye-catching and has some amusing cameos but of the two leads, only Delevingne does…

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