Luc Besson’s overstuffed CGI sci-fi extravaganza borrows wildly from, it seems, every other space opera ever made. It opens July 21 in Seattle. Rating: 1 star out of 4.
We’re all familiar with the Guardians of the Galaxy: engaging rogues with spaceships and wisecracks. Now meet Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne): the dullest couple in the universe.
Derived from a series of French graphic novels that originated in the late 1960s, they’re the central figures in “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” writer-director Luc Besson’s overstuffed CGI sci-fi extravaganza that borrows wildly from, it seems, every other space opera ever made.
I mean, didn’t we just see that spaceship battle in “Guardians of the Galaxy”? We did! And that crowded futuristic city street scene in “Blade Runner”? Yep. And hey! Is that the “Star Wars” Millennium Falcon blasting by overhead? Certainly looks like it.
Movie Review ★
‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,’ with Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Herbie Hancock. Written and directed by Luc Besson. 137 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language. Several theaters.
Once upon a time, Besson showed a certain flair for this sort of thing with his “Fifth Element,” back in 1997. It’s full of eye-popping special effects and an anarchic energy, thanks largely to an out-of-control performance by Chris Tucker.
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But that was 20 years ago, and, in the two decades since, this particular vein has been strip-mined by many others. Now, with “Valerian,” Besson has built his movie around a core couple that has what amounts to negative chemistry.
DeHaan turns Valerian, a major in the human army of the future’s United Federation (thank you, “Star Trek”), into a dullard who is supposedly in love with his fellow soldier Laureline, but whose declarations of love have all the passion of someone reciting the ingredients on a cereal box. As for Delevingne, she goes through the picture wearing an expression that seems stuck somewhere between disapproval of and boredom with the wishy-washy Valerian. She’s so inexpressive you get the sense she’s rummaging around in her mind trying to figure out how to play a scene, and coming up empty.
Together they crash through (often literally) the pricey CG sets fighting alien evildoers and human bad guys trying to get their mitts/tentacles/claws/whatever on a living artifact from a destroyed planet that may help resurrect the devastated world.
Or something like that.
Along the way they encounter a bad-guy general (played by a jowly, abrasive Clive Owen in a uniform that looks like it’s made of nubby green cardboard) and a glowing blue alien shape-shifter (Rihanna, with a nice smile and many changes of outfits).
Yes, there is absolutely nothing new under the many suns in Besson’s universe. This is a voyage not worth taking.