“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”: A Millennial’s Movie Review

Updated on August 4, 2017

The Green Enchantress

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is an action-adventure film with sci-fi elements. The film is directed by Luc Besson, and stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as Major Valerian (DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Delevingne), two human agents/space soldiers who embark on dangerous missions as partners. In a universe where millions of alien species live in harmony on the space station Alpha – the City of a Thousand Planets, Valerian and Laureline are tasked with the delivery of a mysterious package to Alpha. When members of an unknown species attempt to steal the package, Valerian and Laureline must travel through the weird and wonderful districts of Alpha, investigating a suspicious sector of the city in order to uncover a truth which may threaten the safety and integrity of the humans’ intergalactic relationships.

Coming off the commercially successful but critically divisive Lucy, Luc Besson returns with another visual effects-heavy Hollywood release, demanding a budget of up to $175 million. Though we have seen wildly successful films with revolutionary visual effects and non-A-listers as the leads (Avatar), Besson does not quite have the household acclaim that James Cameron does. Nor for that matter do the two leads, DeHaan and Delevingne, artists who are better known among those in the younger generation. The studio thus took a huge risk by greenlighting Valerian’s production, most probably banking on the novelty of a new world with outstanding CGI to rake in returns. Can Besson deliver on the promise of great visuals as well as a tight, unconvoluted screenplay? Or will unnecessary world-building cause Valerian to reek of Jupiter Ascending-itis?

Initial Thoughts

Valerian’s stunning graphics and engaging first half are more than completely wiped out by a poorly-structured second-half narrative, lazy expositional writing and an unfortunate lack of chemistry between Valerian and Laureline. The high from the originality and diversity of Alpha wears off by the last act, replaced with impressions of a predictable, heavy-handed finale. Pop icon Rihanna’s appearance is familiar but comes off more as a gimmick than anything else. Overall, the film may give fans of the graphic novel some hope of it being a good adaptation, but they will surely be disappointed at some of Besson’s handling of the material. If you’re a fan of colourful, mostly fun sci-fi, as well as seeing humans interact with lots of different alien species, then Valerian may be for you. Otherwise, the film is easily forgettable and not exactly worth the price of admission.

Valerian Steel

To its credit, Valerian opens with a beautifully rendered tropical planet setting, and continues the trend of impressing visually for most of the film. Throughout most of the story, Besson takes us through the City of a Thousand Planets with ease and an incredible attention to detail, going through the various sections and districts dynamically, treating our eyes with just enough beauty to leave us wanting more. The world building is complemented with a fantastic use of colour that pops with a vibrancy you’d expect from a space fantasy. Think of Alpha as a combination of Coruscant from Star Wars, the Citadel from Mass Effect, and Rapture from Bioshock. Its vastness and diverse environments are demonstrated fully in a particularly good action scene involving Valerian blasting and crashing his way through various sections in pursuit of a target. Graphics aside, the fun, adventurous and lighthearted tone of the film is a nice departure from the dark, end-of-the-world scenarios seen in other sci-fi/fantasy flicks. A large part of this is Alexandre Desplat’s well-crafted score, which is far from his best but still of a good quality.

Ground Control to Filmmakers

For all its positives, Valerian ends up falling flat on its face with a plot that seems to give up on itself towards the end of the film. While the first half was engaging and a haven for the curious, the second does nothing to further the world-building, choosing to focus solely on the main narrative, which in turn isn’t great. At a certain point, the film’s story takes an almost 90-degree turn where we meet Rihanna’s character. If this sudden detour doesn’t already turn some viewers off, then what comes after probably will. It’s as if Luc Besson had this great idea to adapt a property he was passionate about into a film, but realised halfway through writing it that he didn’t have a smart way to reach the end of the story. As a result, the motivations of the antagonist are almost completely blurted out to the audience in the form of long, pretentious expositional scenes. It’s baffling to think of how this could happen considering the talent involved, and one could conjecture that perhaps the screenplay was too long, causing scenes to be reduced to yawn-inducing exposition. Who knows?

The film mostly disappoints from an acting standpoint too, as Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne come off as wooden in their dialogue delivery despite their solid acting history (let’s forget Suicide Squad for a moment). The film tries to force the audience to care about a romance that shows not a smidge of authenticity, ultimately being unnecessary and at times, cringe-worthy. Veterans like Rutger Hauer and Ethan Hawke also appear in the film but are almost completely wasted in inconsequential and (in Hawke’s case) embarrassingly ridiculous roles.

Concluding Remarks

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a film of a thousand missteps, ultimately prevented from being awful by the quality of its amazing visual effects. Judging by its budget, it’s almost inevitable that the film will cost the studio a hefty loss, while putting a dent in Luc Besson’s career. A Star Trek or Star Wars it is not, but Valerian is at least a respectable attempt to introduce an original world to audiences, nowhere near as unconvincing as Jupiter Ascending. At the end of the day, a famous graphic novel’s legacy continues, though probably not in the way fans wanted it to. And though the near future holds very little with regards to sequels and spinoffs for Valerian, you never know if the film, however good or bad, can inspire someone today to create tomorrow’s masterpiece of an adaptation.

Overall Score: 5.9/10

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Trailer

Rate This Movie!

Cast your vote for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)