Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets 4K Ultra HD
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Based on the groundbreaking comic book series which inspired a generation of artist, writers, and filmmarker, VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is the visually spectacular new adventure film from Luc Besson.
In the 28th century, Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence, and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.
Citizens of Imagination: Creating the Universe of Valerian (multi-part documentary)
The Art of Valerian Photo Gallery
Final Trailer --Lionsgate
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50 years after their first adventure launched in comic strip form, spatio-temporal agents Valérian and Laureline finally hit the big screen. In their debut cinematic story, the pair uncovers a sinister plot to take genocide to a new level by wiping all knowledge of a peaceful civilization from galactic history.
What did I think?
Strangely this reminds me of the original Star Wars and the prequel trilogies at the same time. Like the 1977 classic, you are thrown headfirst into a dirty universe, with no back stories to guide you. It’s an assault on your imagination and a welcome one. Valerian’s universe is spectacular.
Contrariwise, like the flawed prequels, you have to use your imagination to get over the unforgivable plot holes, bordering-on-the-offensive character inconsistencies, and the atrocious miscasting of Dane DeHaan as the (supposedly) womanizing tactical genius Valerian.
It’s still good enough to get four stars. Imagine how good it would have been with the appropriate swagger.
Also like "Avatar" the story is pretty simple, even simplistic. The city of a thousand planets, named Alpha, is essentially a colony space station that humans originally created and came to epitomize the utopian vision of all working and living together peacefully. Alpha grew over time to include other alien races, and the physical structure grew so big that it had to move away from the earth. Alpha of course has its laws and its enforcers, and not all aliens in the galaxy are peaceful. Earth was in a war at one point, and during that war an inhabited planet was knowingly sacrificed by a person higher up in the military. That person just so happens now to be the head of Alpha, and his past has come back to haunt him. Valerian (Dane DeHann) and partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are essentially special agents (think outer space James Bonds) who are tasked with eliminating the threat to Alpha. I'll leave it at that but anyone who has seen ten or more movies will be able to easily see the pretty slim twists coming.
So the story of Valerian isn't great. It's serviceable but there are two other issues that detract from the movie and make it an ultimately thin viewing (you'll be visually dazzled, but that is going to be the main and only reason to watch this). The most important, I think, is that there is supposed to be some romantic chemistry between the Valerian and Laureline and it just doesn't manifest, like, at all. I mean, DeHaan and Delevingne look like they could be brother and sister, and they have about as much romantic chemistry as that relationship would allow. The second issue which detracts from the story is that we aren't given any backstory on these characters to draw us in and make us really care about them. That wouldn't have been too hard to put into the movie and could have kept with the imaginative tone but Besson didn't go this route so we don't have any great attachment to these characters. We do have some attachment to the aliens that were sacrificed in the war as their story is told, mostly visually, without a lot of exposition. That's the strongest point of this film.
Like "Avatar" Valerian does one other thing in similar fashion, but I think better actually. Both films show native persons as much more socially and spiritually advanced as in comparison to humans (especially the "white man"). It is both a criticism and a mirror, I think, but whereas "Avatar" was content to pretend that natives were the most fully realized forms of personhood Valerian's natives are meant to be beyond human and more utopian. Their ability to love and forgive isn't tribal but universal and I couldn't help but wonder about the influences (biblical, Huxlian, natural) that went into their presentation. The alien's forms were humanoid and they were male and female but they were not defined by their sex, they were very androgynous actually, but their physical forms also reflected a beauty of form. I think that this was included to keep or enhance their tonal idea that they were a utopian race. Even the threat that they posed to Alpha was not an existential one. Some of these elements could prompt a fun discussion with family and friends of the idea of a utopia.
So Valerian is worth a watch, at least on the big screen. People who like a healthy dose of psychological, moral, philosophical, or social thought in their sf are going to be disappointed and may feel a little empty afterward. People who care not a whit other than wanting to be visually dazzled will get all that they want. I wanted a bit of both but I was satisfied with this just being a popcorn movie.