Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

The moral to this story? You can gorge on a feast of effects, but without engaging humans leading the way, you’ll feel stuffed with a whole lot of nothing.

After a terrific introduction, one which I hope will embarrass filmmakers relying on those mind numbing scrawls to give us backstory, we settle into a very gorgeous beach like community, inhabited by very gorgeous figures who have a thing for pearls. Quickly, a war descends and we see that we are actually in what special operative Valerian believes is a dream. Or is it?

Some of director Luc Besson’s best work has woven futuristic action with stories that compelled. That, I would think, could have been the case this time, too. Based on yet another comic book series, this story’s got romance, bad guys, futuristic fun and the de rigeur end-of-the-world stuff. So why are we not giddily going along for the very pretty ride?

Sadly, I have to focus on the two human stars of the film, actors whose skill and charm must carry us through not just a lot of plot, but make us care about it. I’ve seen Dane DeHaan do much more interesting work than he gets to do here: it almost feels as if he was cast because his voice sounds like Keanu Reeves, who, I guess wasn’t available. And then there’s the annoyed and annoying Laureine, played by model turned actress Cara Delevingne. Hopefully, her future will be brighter, but here, her change of emotions is indicated solely by a change of hairstyles. For what it’s worth, Rihanna stretches her way through a musical interlude, John Goodman is unrecognizable, Ethan Hawke has a moment of fun and Clive Owen shows how its done, reminding us of what the rest of this movie is very much missing.

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