Based on the French comic books “Valerian and Laureline,” Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets leaves much to be desired. Yes, it has all the eye-popping visual candy of a typical summer blockbuster but it lacks an original story line.
Agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) of the United Human Federation, get missioned to retrieve a unique “converter,” which is actually a cute, sweet, little, armadillo-like creature from the Planet Mül. Whatever goes in its front end gets reproduced out its back end. It’s the last one of its kind since Mül was destroyed.
The mission to retrieve the converter is the best part of the film. Valerians goes through an interdimensional market—think the Tatooine cantina a million times over—some dimensions of which can only be seen with special goggles. Laureline, from a different dimension, rescues him when his escape is thwarted. Then they travel to Alpha to deliver the goods. At this point, the movie falls apart.
Alpha, otherwise known as the City of a Thousand Planets, is a huge space city whose boast is that it’s home to hundreds of different species of creatures who live together in relative harmony. The leaders, of course, are human, led by Commander Filitt (Clive Owen). But Filitt has a problem. There’s a part of Alpha that’s blind to the city’s sophisticated surveillance in the command center. He sends Valerian and Laureline to check it out and (to make a way, too long story—the movie clocks in at 2 hours 17 minutes—short) they discover Filitt’s nasty secret and try to correct it.
Unfortunately, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets contributes nothing new in the way of story. The “absolute power corrupts absolutely” cliché comes into play here. Getting to the point takes too long and is not helped by the actors’ performances. The leads are stiff and wooden, delivering their lines with little emotion, Ditto for Clive Owen and Rihanna, whose shape-shifting glamipod, Bubble, helps Valerian get into a species-specific area of Alpha.
The one redeeming quality of Valerian is its climactic monologue, although delivered melodramatically by Delevingne, about love overcoming all. Valerian, ever the soldier, is ready to follow orders even though he knows doing so is wrong and would only perpetuate the injustices done to the survivors of Mül. Laureline attempts to convince him to break the rules for the sake of love, saying that love can overcome all injustice and doubt. A noble sentiment, yes, but to sit though the film to get there? It just isn’t worth it. My suggestion? Watch Ender’s Game instead.