Susan Granger’s review of “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” (STX Films)
From Luc Besson, the visionary French director of “Lucy” and “The Fifth Element,” comes this $200 million sci-fi fantasy, consisting of an episodic series of missions originating on Alpha, a space station in the Magellan Current that keeps expanding, adding new entities, becoming an intergalactic, multicultural hub.
Inspired by a series of ‘60s French comic books by Jean-Claude Mezieres and Pierre Christin, the story focuses 28th century space adventurers, cocky Major Valerian (Dane De Haan) and sassy Sergeant Laureline (British fashion model Cara Delevingne). They’re military-trained operatives and long-time partners, traveling on a spacecraft called Alex, reporting to the Minister of Defense (Herbie Hancock).
After the near-eradication of a peaceful, iridescent beach species called Pearl People, they embark on a mission that takes them to The Big Market, an extra-dimensional tourist bazaar on the planet Kirian, where they retrieve a rare creature, a Mul Converter, the last of its species, that can make copies of whatever it ingests, from a Jabba the Hutt-type black marketer, Igon Sirus (voiced by John Goodman).
Another involves flamboyant Jolly the Pimp (Ethan Hawke), who has enslaved an exotic, shape-shifting “glamapod” named Bubble (Rihanna) in Paradise Alley. There’s sinister, megalomaniacal military Commander Arun Filitt (Clive Owen) and the Doghan Daguis, a CGI trio of furry, fast-talking platypus-like critters who broker information.
Insofar as plot goes, it’s all very confusing. If you’re determined to see this, just to sit back and enjoy the dizzying visual spectacle that Besson created with Weta Digital effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk and production designer Hugues Tissandier.
Rutger Hauer does a cameo as the President of the World State Federation, while French directors Benoit Jacquot, Louis Letterier and Olivier Megaton can be glimpsed as military officers.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a fast-paced, incomprehensibly futuristic 4, an epic indulgence.