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This is what you would expect Avatar to look like if Luc Besson directed it. A visionary when it comes to spectacular on screen masterpieces like The Fifth Element back in 1997. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a wonderful adventure through space in a future where only your wildest dreams are actually real.

Based on the comic book series Valerian and Laureline the two set on an adventure through space from planet to planet in search for a little creature called a Mül Converter that will hopefully help stop Alpha, the City of a Thousand Plants, from imploding. Or so it seems. As the two get further into their mission they find the story they’ve been told isn’t quite as it seems. But being the good agents that they are, they uncover the truth and help right what was once wrong.

While the story is simple and very similar to stories that have been told before in agent style dramas, there cold have been so much more to give the story substance and depth. It’s the one thing that doesn’t quite work for the film, which you would think is a huge mistake being that the story is the movie. In this case the story is just a fun way of showing the visual spectacular that is Valerian.

The opening scene starts off with David Bowie’s Space Oddity as you glide through space until we meet a plant full of albino-lizard, human formed aliens living in what can only be described as paradise. Not a cloud in the sky, beautiful beaches but what is truly remarkable about this scene is how clear and believable it is. The CGI used in Valerian is so good you will forget that you’re actually looking at aliens. But it’s not just the intro that sucks you in, the remainder of the film has such close attention to details that every scene is vibrant and clear with so much to look at and explore. Something this spectacular can only come from Luc Besson and his amazing adventurous mind.

Luc Besson has worked as a Director and Writer for more movies than you probably know. The biggest and most recognisable is The Fifth Element back in 1997, which has the same look as Valerian. And to celebrate the 20 years a handful of local cinemas are putting on special screenings. He played a part in writing the Transporter series as well as Taken. While his Directing hasn’t produced a great deal of blockbusters, the ones he has directed have been just as spectacular with the like of Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson.

Besson missed the mark with his special touch in Valerian not only in the basic story line, but also in the development of the characters which is surprising as a great deal of his films are character driven. We find these two star crossed lovers at the centre of the screen with all this built up tension but no back-story. No back-story to who they are and why they are the way they are. And it’s this that brings the story down. It isn’t just the leads, a great deal of the characters are one dimensional and flat. The ones that stand out are the aliens that collect the pearls from the ocean. This colony of aliens seems to be the only ones that have a strong back ground and story to tell. And despite Actors using just their voice for these aliens, there is more emotion and expression than some of the acting from the rest of the cast.

Leading the pack is Dane Dehaan (Amazing Spider-man 2, Chronicle, Life) as Major Valerian who is a cocky but honest and dedicated Major. Dehaan is a wonderful actor with a pretty good range but he seems to have a bit of fun with this character. What is unbelievable is how he can take on four robots while a group of 12 or so armed soldiers can’t. What is further unbelievable this time regarding his acting skill is his love for his co-star Cara Delevigne.

The same goes for Delevigne, despite her best ability she can not portray a love for her co-star either. Delevigne plays Sargent Laureline Valerians counterpart and love interest. Delevigne has a unique cheeky charm about her character very similar to how she appears in real life. But it is as if the two actors have never experienced love which in turn hurt the believability between the two.

Also gracing the screen is none-other than Rihanna who plays Bubbles the shape shifting Glapmapod. While her time on screen is small she makes a huge impression and you kind of wish she’d hang around for a bit longer along side Valerian.

Overall this film is well worth seeing, and if you can manage to see it on a big screen in all it’s visual splendour, do it. What you will find is the story meanders around and trails off which says the film was about half an hour too long. But during those scenes where you are starting to think about how much is left of the film, you can escape in the beautiful visual experience this film gives you. Every scene is full of so many things to look at and watch that you forget sometimes there’s some action or important information going on in the middle of the screen.  It’s one of Besson’s true visual masterpieces and there’s a whole world out there for more of Valerian and Laureline.

Review by Jay Cook

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