Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets @ Fantasia

valerian-dane-dehaan-shipSummer time is a great time to go watch films. It gets you out of the heat and into the air conditioning of the theatres. It is also the season in which the studios release a lot of action-adventure type movies. Lighter fare that won’t have you thinking too much, but are high on the octane and fun factors.

French director Luc Besson has brought sci fi fans a couple of films before this one. Films like The Fifth Element, Lucy and The Last Battle as well as some action films like Joan of Arc, Nikita and The Professional. So, obviously, when it comes to these genres the man is a veteran.

When reviewing a film of this sorts you have to factor many things in. Besson has not really made a strong film since 2011’s The Lady. Several of his films like The Family and Lucy have been disappointments as they seemed to have plenty of potential. Sometimes his grandiose style does not translate or work for a film. Second, is that this is a summer film and as such is meant to just be a lot of fun. It is not a work which is meant to change film history or have a huge emotional impact. It is based on a comic book series which is hugely popular and influential. It is supposed to be big and colourful.

We are in the 28th century. Special operatives Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan – A Cure for Wellness, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and Sergeant Laureline (Care Delevingne – Paper Towns, Suicide Squad) work together as a team and have been given another tricky and dangerous mission. Their mission is on Alpha, an ever expanding planet which has seen many different species come to it to work together sharing the knowledge and know how they possess. As such it is also known as the City of a Thousand Planets. Sounds idyllic, but there is an evil force there trying to ruin it for everyone.

First off, the visuals in this film are astounding. It probably has the best visuals since James Cameron’s Avatar. Everything looks great! Even the fact that I saw it in 3D (which I am not usually a fan of) did not deter from that. Everything was so realistic that a couple of times I felt a little motion sick. His attention to detail is mind blowing at times. The visuals alone are worth the price of admission. But there are other pluses to the film.

The visuals are aided greatly by the cheeky dialogue. Again it is not Shakespeare and it does not pretend to be. However, the banter between Valerian and Laureline is fun and caused several chuckles. Not all of the credit goes to the screenwriters as the two leads deliver their lines with great timing and flair. I was especially doubtful of model turned actress Delevingne, but she does a good job here. Even is believable in the action sequences. There is hope for her acting career yet.

Film also contains several fun cameos by the likes of Clive Owen, Herbie Hancock, Ethan Hawke, John Goodman (listen carefully), and Rihanna (once again demonstrating that she is a decent actress).

Yes, Besson is indulgent and extravagant (the film is a touch too long), but he has succeeded in making a summer flick which I enjoyed rather than one which I run screaming from. While Besson has not made the perfect film (if there is such a pink unicorn) he has made one that is fun to watch and exciting.

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