At age 10, French film director Luc Besson fell in love with the French-Belgian space opera comic “Valerian and Laureline” by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres. Now, Besson’s cinematic adaptation of his beloved childhood comic, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” hits theaters in all of its glorious spectacle.
Besson has created an intoxicating, visually enchanting world in “Valerian,” one that is imaginatively rendered, deeply textured and almost overwhelming. This film drops you into a world that knows no limits on space, time and dimensionality.
Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne star as Valerian and Laureline, a couple of sassy space cops. They’re tasked with securing a rare converter being sold on the black market, but the seemingly simple mission leads to a governmental conspiracy to cover up the genocide of the peaceful Mul people 30 years ago.
The surviving Mul people, staging their own small resistance, look like tall, thin pearlescent Masai warriors. They coexist in peaceful equality with the environment. Fighting for their existence is the noblest of causes.
While the duo chase down leads and escape from wild adventures, Valerian attempts to woo Laureline, asking her to marry him over and over again. But the proposal feels forced and awkward, because there’s not much chemistry between DeHaan and Delevingne. They’re both slight and wispy, not quite filling the suits of these powerful space heroes.
Another problem is that DeHaan seems miscast. He fades over the course of the film, while Delevingne comes to the forefront, with a magnetic screen presence established through the force of her eyes.
The message of “Valerian” is a hopeful and humane one, about the power of love and trust and setting aside procedure and protocol to do the right thing. It’s a movie about dissolving the limits of space and dimensionality in order to create a harmonious existence for all living creatures, and that extends to hierarchical power structures as well.
Despite Valerian and Laureline’s hollow romantic relationship, and moments where the film loses the story thread and sense of geography, it’s almost impossible to not be swept away by Besson’s stunning world, and his beating heart that drives the moral of the story home.
‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language. 2:17. Fayette Mall, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.