‘Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets’ Review: Unabashed spectacles
Valerian (Dane DeHaan), the space agent who finds himself in the middle of the universe’s seedy red light district, is forced to sit through a musical performance.
Out comes Rihanna, gamely donning a skimpy outfit as she sashays onstage. With every beat, she changes costumes, all reminiscent of themes so strangely out of place in a space adventure. At one point, she’s a vixen straight out of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001). Then she’s a seductive striptease donning tights with the red, white and blue stripes of the American flag.
Wide-eyed with enthusiasm
Like Valerian who midway through Rihanna’s performance is wide-eyed with a mix of enthusiasm and wonder, it is almost impossible not to get enchanted with Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
The film is a wild, brash, sometimes frustrating and always spectacular ride through candy-colored worlds that can only come out of an imagination that simply refuses to grow up. It is less like George Lucas’ first Star Wars (1977), despite the two films’ shared affinity with extraterrestrial intrigue, and more like Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986), with the playful manner it approaches world-building.
Besson’s film morphs and bends with effortless ease. It is a buffet of spectacles. Sure, a lot of them target the eyes more than the brain or the heart but the effect is still undeniable.
Valerian is adamant not to provide diversions from its mostly cheerful barrage of glowing hues and shallow exploits. It never gets too serious, and given a market brimming with blockbusters that often mistake gravity for quality, the film is refreshing for its very earnest effort to simply let go and be that flamboyant peacock in a room of films that have been color-graded to look as drab and joyless as possible.
Never deep enough
The story, which has Valerian and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) hopping from one planet to another to rescue a commander (Clive Owen), is essentially a frame to contain as much of its giddy visuals as possible.
The story never gets really deep enough, although it touches on issues that when applied to real world conflicts can make the film seem more pertinent than it really is.
DeHaan and Delevingne’s incessant banter serves as levity when the storyline treads into more serious territories, which may either be off-putting or charming depending on one’s ability to tolerate romance in situations where the rules of survival dictate that romance should be the last thing that should matter. In any case, Valerian treats itself with reassured lightness.
Quest for commitment
Beneath the labyrinthine plot that has the characters shift from one challenge to another, the film is all about a man and his quest for commitment and a relaxing day at the beach. There is a certain sense of humor in how such a dogged mission is bloated to fit an entire universe of diverse worlds and cultures. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.