Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Valerian and Laureline are federal agents in the 28th century. The Minister of Defence summons them to the giant, roaming space station Alpha – home to hundreds of species from across the universe – where they become involved in a plot involving the search for a mysterious power source and the potential destruction of a peaceful alien race.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) – Director: Luc Besson

 valerian and the city of a thousand planets poster suitable for kids

Rating: 12

Running Length: 137 mins

Starring: Dane Dehaan, Carla Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna

Genre: Adventure, Science Fiction

REVIEW: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

Director Luc Besson’s dream project, on which he has been working on and off for decades, finally reaches the screen. The results are mixed to say the least. This is the kind of film it’s best to let just wash over you, and not think about too much. If you stop to try and analyse the story it falls apart, but as a moment-to-moment experience it’s good fun.

The visuals are obviously gorgeous, with witty design and beautiful bright colours, although sometimes they rush past in such a blur that you feel the need for a pause button. The action scenes are varied and inventive, if occasionally a little hard to follow. The same goes for the plot, which lurches along like one of the lumbering, ungainly alien creatures we meet, and at times it feels as if Besson is making it up as he goes.

Dehaan and Delevingne take a little getting used to, but Delevingne makes the stronger impression. The dialogue tries a little too hard to convince us that the two main characters are engaging in flirty banter, but the actors do well and by the end has managed to convince that there actually was a genuine relationship there. Laureline gets as much screen time and action as Valerian, which makes her removal from the title of the film all the more puzzlingly sexist (the original comic book was called “Valerian and Laureline’).

But there are a lot of cool ideas and funny moments, and it’s actually more enjoyable if you just see it as a series of scenes rather than as a cohesive movie. It’s very episodic, with many tangents and non sequiturs, to the extent that for huge chunks of screen time the main plot is forgotten. Maybe it would have worked even better as a TV series? In any case it’s very much aimed at kids, with an emphasis on icky goo, silliness and nonsense, with Rihanna’s pole-dancing scene the only one that feels like it has strayed in from a more ‘adult’ version of the story.

CONTENT: IS ‘VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

In the first scene humanoid aliens are seen fleeing in terror from spaceship wreckage falling from the skies. While some make it to safety, one is left outside to face certain death, and we see them terrified and weeping, although when she finally faces her fate she is resigned and calm.

During regular action scenes, gunfire is exchanged, but many of these fights simply result in characters being stunned or immobilised. When the weapons are lethal, no blood, gore or pain is shown.

An alien prepares to eat a human character by picking up a round slicing implement: the implication is that he will slice off the top of her head like a boiled egg, but this never happens and the human character shows no fear or distress.

During a large swordfight several aliens are stabbed or sliced with swords, but no gore is seen or lingered on, apart from a brief splash of yellow ‘blood’. At the end of the scene an alien’s head starts to slide slowly off, after having been sliced with a sword (offscreen). A villain is punched repeatedly in the face but it happens offscreen: all we see is the woman raising and lowering her fist a few times, accompanied by a sound effect.

The hero enters a red light district and is approached by a variety of females on the street who attempt to attract his attention without offering anything explicit. He enters a club where the proprietor promises him whatever he desires (though not stated, this is obviously a brothel and the owner promises ‘pleasure’). A woman performs an erotic dance for him in a variety of skimpy costumes, dancing around a pole.

Later the exotic dancer tells how she is an illegal immigrant and was forced into this line of work to avoid being deported 

CAN I SEE A CLIP?
VERDICT: IS ‘VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS’ FOR KIDS?

Valerian is a frenetic but mostly innocuous space adventure, full of action but with little in the way of graphic violence or serious peril. Some children may be too young for the sexual innuendo, although it’s arguable that this may go over their heads anyway.

  • Violence: 2/5 (some gun fights, a sword fight, a few punches and kicks, an alien stabbed with a sword)
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5 (characters show distress and cry at a family member’s imminent death)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (frequent peril but not scary)
  • Sexual Content: 2/5 (frequent mild innuendo, erotic dance by a scantily-clad character)
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (a couple of moderate curse words)
  • Dialogue:  2/5 (verbal references to genocide and sex)
  • Other notes: (deals briefly with genocide and the exploitation of illegal immigrants)

Words by Simon Litton.

This review was a guest post by Simon Litton. He is a British national living in Brussels and contends that the close proximity of Belgian beer had nothing to do with that decision.

You can read his blog at https://simonlitton.wordpress.com/

 

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