Beau McMillan - Contributing Reviewer
When I first heard of Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets, I had no idea that it was based on a graphic novel. This comes from someone whom prides himself in his vast comic book knowledge and his uncanny ability to keep up with the entire DC line of comics that come out every Wednesday. The latter part of that sentence may reveal why I hadn’t heard of this slightly more obscure title: it’s not from DC Comics or Marvel Comics like most of the juggernaut comic book movies bombarding our theaters at least 4 times a year. It was created in 1967 by French writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claud Mezieres, and debuted in serialized format in the French comics publication Pilote.
While I may not have known much about the comic, I was very much aware of director Luc Besson. Besson has directed masterpieces such as The Fifth Element and Leon: The Professional, as well as Scarlett Johansson-lead Lucy. Knowing this, I fully expected Valerian to deliver on the visuals, as well as provide an imaginative and creative story. The film definitely delivered on those fronts. Watching it in 3D, I was transported through 100’s of (wait, make that a thousand) planets lush with fascinating scenery, unique ecosystems and incredible organisms. The film brought back fond memories of the first time I watched A New Hope, operating in the same space opera genre and sharing its penchant for humor, political intrigue, and, of course, action. The thing that really grounded this film were leads Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevinge. The two had great chemistry and comedic timing, and deftly sold the aforementioned action. Sam Spruell, Clive Owen, Rihanna and Ethan Hawke rounded out a very capable supporting cast.
Is it a perfect film? No. That spot is reserved for The Dark Knight, The Big Lebowski, and Groundhog Day. Valerian ran a little long and suffered from a few slow moments, but that did not affect this fan’s overall enjoyment of this film. The film takes risks and strives for originality in a world full of cookie cutter, good versus bad tropes, while embracing the legacy of the graphic novel. I highly recommend sci-fi fans see this film and put their hard-earned money toward original adaptations and non-sequels.
Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets, directed by Luc Besson, and starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevinge, Sam Spruell, Clive Owen, Rihanna, and Ethan Hawke, opens nationwide July 21 in 2D, 3D, and Real D 3D formats.