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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Luc Besson has never been known for his restraint. Director of films such as the sci-fi epic ‘The Fifth Element’, he has gleefully embraced the meaning of excess. The French director has his admirers with his movies turning a profit despite their huge budgets. That’s just as well as his latest, ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ is already notorious as being the most expensive French film ever made. It certainly looks spectacular with every penny seen on the silver screen in Besson’s typically outlandish style.

Valerian (Dane DeHann) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are special operatives from the Ministry of Defence charged with maintaining order. It’s the 28th century, where all manner of species converge to trade. Sent to a world called Alpha also known as the City of a Thousand Planets, Valerian and Laureline come across a sinister plot to disrupt its delicate peace. Dealing with shady types such as shapeshifting dancer Bubble (Rihanna) and pimp Jolly (Ethan Hawke), the law-enforcing duo uncover a grand scheme that could destroy the entire universe.

‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ is pure spectacle. It really looks amazing with the only limitations being the film-maker’s imaginations. All manner of new creatures are on display as they battle for survival amidst a cosmic mystery. Valerian and Laureline make a quirky couple and neither of their portrayers are known for their heroic roles but gamely go out of their comfort zone. Although their chemistry is miniscule, DeHann and Delevingne almost succeed in embodying their character’s traits and remain consistently engaging.

Besson’s stylistic flair is seen in abundance and he doesn’t hold back in the CGI splendour. Whilst the script is overlong and has several unnecessary scenes adding little to the central plot, the gorgeous scenery provides compensation. The wondrous visions aid in papering over the cracks of a predictable plot as do the energetic and enthusiastic performances which divert attention away from any deficiencies.

‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ is a sci-fi epic on a grand scale. It’s an often glorious mess and occasionally drags when it should soar. But its good moments are memorable with its use of 3-D technology adding to its allure. Luc Besson doesn’t hold back with his latest with a beguiling mix of genre styles sure to further cement his popular reputation.

Rating out of 10: 6

Transformers: The Last Knight

Today’s tough male movie moguls used to be young boys too. Given how many superhero and toy-based movies there now are, they appear to be living out their childhoods. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the ‘Transformers’ movies. Based on the popular 1980’s toy-line where cars turn into indestructible robots, the franchise has spawned 5 live-action films. ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ continues the series’ cinematic excursions. Just as silly and thinly plotted, it conjures a colourful spectacle sure to have its male viewers reminiscing about their misbegotten youths.

Years after their appearance on earth, the war between the virtuous Autobots and evil Decepticons continues. Only a few humans are brave enough to join the battle with Cade (Mark Wahlberg) one of them. Forming an alliance with one of the Autobots, he also enlists the help of Sir Edmund (Anthony Hopkins) and university professor Viviane (Laura Haddock). Together they aim to unlock the secrets to why the Transformers continue inhabiting earth. The answer becomes crucial with Earth’s fate hanging in the balance as the robot’s destructive ways take their toll.

‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ delivers exactly what one expects. A more over the top and high-voltage spectacle would be hard to overtake than this one. The action is dazzling, the CGI is fantastic and the colourful cinematography superbly catches the overall comic-book tone it requires. It’s also a terrible movie with a poorly structured screenplay and wooden performances. Michael Bay directs with the subtlety of a sledgehammer although the ‘Transformers’ movies were never known for being high-art.

Wahlberg and the cast go through the motions without much passionate energy. That’s difficult to do when all they do is react to events than initiating them. As a continuation of the series’ mythology, ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ develops few new angles. The franchise feels a little tired at its fifth outing with the pedestrian plotting hard to hide amidst the incredible action sequences.

There’s not much more you can say about ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ as it’s the same as the others. Brains won’t be hurt watching it although it’s surprising how totally forgettable it is. The obligatory ‘setting things up for a sequel’ scenes are there although even the enthusiasm of those young at heart movie moguls may not be enough to see audiences demand a return visit.

Rating out of 10: 5