Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the kind of trash sci-fi that makes people genre fans for life or alienates them entirely. Luc Besson’s take on the beloved French comic book series (which is probably amazing, because these ideas are incredible) is zany, cheesy, full of plot holes and logic slips, and somehow, it’s still pretty fun.
Dane DeHaan takes up the mantle of Valerian, a special agent with all the right moves, at least as far as everyone but his partner, Laureline (Cara Delevingne). She’s smart and passionate and far too familiar with his ways to take his constant flirting seriously, though his eventual leap to proposing marriage forces her to reconsider things. It’s tempting not to elaborate on any of the other plots in Valerian, as the back-and-forth between our heroes is by far the most interesting dynamic playing out on screen.
But, as context is required of a review, here’s what you need to know: that city of 1,000 planets? It’s a space station that’s grown so much it had to be pushed away from Earth and took up its own real estate, where it continued to expand with species from all across the universe. It’s known as Alpha, and it is under threat from an unknown darkness. And so, Valerian and Laureline are called in to figure out what’s what, who’s bad and how to save everyone. This undertaking leads them on a wild adventure, and we the viewers? We’re just along for the ride.
Though the dialogue is often stilted and the aggressively vibrant and animated look of many of the locales and creatures is a bit reminiscent of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Valerian does have an abundance of one thing: creativity. That’s not to say that every idea that turns up on screen should necessarily have made it there, but to Besson’s credit, he swings for the fences as he works to bring this vision to life on the silver screen.
For genre fans with a weakness for deliciously bad sci-fi, Valerian is the perfect option to beat the heat and pass a couple of wacky hours.