Reel Shorts | Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

Another comic book comes to life as the French classic Valerian and Laureline gets its screen adaptation in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Valerian (Dane Dehaan) is a Federal officer on Space Station Alpha with his partner and love interest, Laureline (Cara Delevigne). Alpha started as a space station that orbited the Earth. Due to increasing additions and expansions from the nations of the world and citizens of the universes, Alpha has become a huge roving explorer traveling throughout the galaxies. Deep in the heart of Alpha, a threat to destroy the existence of the “city” is growing. The Minister of Defense (Herbie Hancock) sends the officers Valerian and Laureline on a mission to save Alpha.

Valerian et Laureline was one of the most popular French comic books in history with a run of printing from 1967 to 2010. When it was announced that a movie adaptation was being made, a whole country held its bated breath in anticipation. Unfortunately, Luc Besson’s screenplay and studio casting fall far short of anything resembling the comic.

In the comic, Valerian was a strong, smart and loyal officer. In this movie, Dehaan’s Valerian is a smart-aleck, unsure, playboy who fancies himself in love with his partner but has no idea how to show it. Valerian stumbles and bumbles through almost every scene sounding like a wishy-washy, love-struck and confused future version of Keanu Reeves. Sadly, only in two action scenes of the movie does the brown-haired, diminutive Valerian of the movie mildly resemble the tall, handsome, dark-haired hero of the comic.

Delevigne’s Laureline is no better either. Her blond, wispy, and whiny portrayal has no resemblance to the independent, confident and sexy red-haired vixen in the comic. There is no wonder why Valerian falls for Laureline in the comic but in the movie, there’s no telling. Their relationship is forced and contrived which does not allow the audience to care about either of them.

The one bright spot is the portrayal of the character Bubble by Rihanna. You are awakened (yes I said it) to her presence from the moment she appears on the screen. Although she may appear to be shallow and her existence in the movie seems superfluous, her character has a depth unseen in any other in the movie.

The other saving grace for this movie is Thierry Arbogast. Where Luc Besson fails in writing the screenplay for the movie, Arbogast triumphs in cinematography. Along with Besson’s direction, the cinematography is glorious. Colorful and intricate, Valerian is a visual treat that is enhanced by its 3D effects but is still as good without. Unfortunately, style does not win over substance.

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets proves that in this golden age of comic book adaptations, not all of them are good. Maybe something was lost in the translation.

Grade: D+

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