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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

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