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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets  (3D) | Clive Owen, Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Herbie Hancock, Ethan Hawke, Rhianna | Review

Unfortunately, long-awaited does not always a worthy film make.  Case in point:  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

The film, a French-American collaboration, written and directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Lucy) introduces an intriguing race of beings called Pearls, who are tall, willowy, and hairless,  covered in a glittery, all-over bluish-white sheen.   They live a languid tribal-like existence on a paradise planet called Müll, home to unique animals (referred to as “converters”) that can ingest objects (think diamonds and pearls) and then excrete them in mass quantities.  The jewel pearls provide a necessary energy for the being Pearls.

All is blessed nirvana until one day Müll’s atmosphere is pierced by flying war machines, one of which demolishes the entire planet.  Some of the Pearls escape and begin a search for the last remaining converter and jewel pearl.  So my first question is whose idea was it to have two different types Pearls/pearls in the same story?

Granted, the film is based on a series of French graphic novels that ran from 1967 to 2010, so there may have been little choice there, however, the casting of United Federation’s human army Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) as a couple of incessantly squabbling love interests is my second question.  Who thought that was a good idea?

Valerian and Laureline are given a mission by the Federation’s Defense Minister (Herbie Hancock) to recover kidnapped Commander Arün Filitt (Clive Owen) from a rebel group on a mission of their own, and in the process, unravel the truth about the Pearls, the converter, and the roles humans had played in Müll’s destruction.  They are partners and love interests

DeHaan and Delevingne have zero chemistry together and their attempt at anything approaching a romance is laughable.  While DeHaan mugs for the camera with a series of bewildered facial expressions, Delevingne swaggers and complains loudly, never convincing us of her “love” for the irritating Valerian.  Aren’t these guys supposed to be the heroes?  Then why do I want to punch them? In these roles, neither exudes charisma, only annoyance, and that’s only when they’re not being annoying themselves.

The omnipresent CGI is sometimes effective.  Pearl society scenes, an underwater adventure, and a Paradise Alley/Glam Club sequence featuring Jolly the Pimp (Ethan Hawke) and a shape-shifting pole dancer named Bubble (Rhianna) are sights to behold.  The 3D effect, on the other hand, is so tiny as to be barely worth the effort to justify wearing glasses in the dark.

At 137 minutes the film, despite a promising start, disintegrates into a mish-mash of sometimes incomprehensible action compounded by clumsy, groan-inducing dialogue and overstatements that would make Captain Obvious cringe.  When revealed, the intriguing premise of the actual City of a Thousand Planets serves only a small purpose in the scheme of things and the film is not above (bad) slapstick at times.

As with any CGI-heavy film, it is apparent where most of the $200 million dollar budget went; as usual it means that some other component would gasp for air, and this time, it’s the impaired screenplay full of stilted dialogue and attempts at wisecracks without any zing.

Wait a minute.  Isn’t Valerian the name of an herbal root that induces sleep?  Then this movie is aptly titled, indeed.  It garners one extra chick for the visuals which, for some, will be enough of a reason to sit through it.

Others will expect more intelligent life from a city with so many planets to choose from.

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