Rating: 3 out of 5
It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with his inventive adventure The Fifth Element, and now he's back at at again with this adaptation of the popular comics by Pierre Cristin and Jean-Claude Mezieres. The film is a blast of visual animation, with a wildly over-complicated story involving time and space. It's all rather messy, but there's plenty of comedy and adventure to hold the interest, plus some offbeat romance and a hint of present-day politics.
It's set in the 28th century, when the human-created mega-city Alpha has travelled across the universe and is now home to beings from a thousand worlds. Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is a security officer working with his bickering partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) to retrieve illegal contraband. After a mission on a desert planet with parallel dimension issues, they return to Alpha with haunting information about a lost civilisation, which seems to be at the centre of a secret war Alpha's Commander (Clive Owen) is waging. Amid a complex power struggle, Valerian and Laureline head into a no-go sector of Alpha to find out what's going on, getting help from a chatty pimp (Ethan Hawke), a submarine pirate (Alain Chabat) and a shape-shifting pole-dancer (Rihanna).
Besson fills the nearly two and a half hour running time with outlandishly colourful effects, lively action and lots of verbal banter, but not so much character development. Only Valerian and Laureline emerge as fully formed people, even as they conform rather oddly to gender expectations that are old fashioned today, let alone 700 years in the future. So their tetchy romance is enjoyable but rather aimless. Meanwhile, Rihanna has some strong moments once she stops dancing and changing costumes like she's in a music video. And Sam Spruell and Kris Wu make a solid double act as Alpha officials trying to work out what's going on.
In other words, there's plenty here to keep the audience engaged, even if the movie feels somewhat unhinged. Everything on-screen looks simply amazing, with eye-popping characters, gadgets, planets, ships and aliens. So it doesn't really matter that the title hero is rather pasty and bland; at least he's resourceful and funny. It may be impossible not to notice the constant echoes of Star Wars and Avatar scattered through the film, but actually both of those franchises were inspired by the Valerian & Laureline comic books. And since they were published for 43 years, Besson has plenty of material to draw on if audiences demand a sequel.
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Facts and Figures
Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy
Production compaines: EuropaCorp
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Cast & Crew
Director: Luc Besson
Producer: Luc Besson, Virginie Besson-Silla
Screenwriter: Luc Besson
Starring: Dane DeHaan as Valerian, Cara Delevingne as Laureline, Clive Owen as Commander Arün Filitt, Rihanna as Bubble, Ethan Hawke as Jolly the Pimp, Herbie Hancock as Defence Minister, Kris Wu as Sergeant Neza, Sam Spruell as General Okto Bar, Alain Chabat as Bob the Pirate, John Goodman as Igon Siruss (voice), Rutger Hauer as President of the World State Federation, Aymeline Valade as Emperor Haban-Limaï, Elizabeth Debicki as Emperor Haban-Limaï (voice), Mathieu Kassovitz as Hawker, Diva Cam as Mâatri (Tsûuri's Friend), Eric Lampaert as Guide Thaziit, Alexandre Willaume-Jantzen as Captain Kris, Gavin Drea as Sergent Cooper, Réginal Kudiwu as Major Samk, David Michie as Pearl Tsuuri (voice), Marion Roussignol as Pearl, Emilie Pommelet as Pearl, Roman Blomme as Boulan Bathor, Emilie Livingston as Bubble Dancer, Jonas Bloquet as K-Tron Warrior / Control Room Soldier, Alexandre Nguyen as Japanese Delegate, Sand Van Roy as Creature 'Jessica Rabbit', Sam Douglas as Male Tourist, Aurelien Gaya as Igon Sirus Guard, Mikael Buxton as Paradise Alley Soldier, Yun Lai as Valley Chinois, Anders Heinrichsen as Police Officer, Tristan Robin as Roper, Yun-Ping He as Controller of the Technical Chamber, James Flynn as Guide #2, David Clark as Astronaut, Ben Mauro as Commander Arün Filitt Guard, Jean-François Lenogue as Igon Sirus Guard, Peter Eberst as Igon Sirus Guard, Peter Hudson as Captain Crowford, Xavier Giannoli as Captain Norton, Louis Leterrier as Captain Welcoming Mercurys, Eric Rochant as Captain Welcoming Palm Müret, Benoît Jacquot as Captain Welcoming Arysum, Olivier Megaton as Captain Welcoming KCO2, Gérard Krawczyk as Captain Welcoming Martapuraïs, Pierre Cachia as Kortan Dahük, David Saada as Kortan Dahük, Hippolyte Burkhart-Uhlen as Kortan Dahük, Florian Guichard as Mercury, Stéphane Mir as Mercury, Thierry Barthe as Mercury, Pier Ewudu as Palm Müret, Andrew Tisba as Palm Müret, Yannick Lorté as Palm Müret, Charly Akakpo as Arysum-Kormn, Clément Beauruelle as Arysum-Kormn, Audrey Kamp as Arysum-Kormn, Anthony Hornez as Martapuraï, Julien Bleitrach as Martapuraï, Maxime Babara Touré as Martapuraï, Sasha Luss as Princess Lïhio-Minaa / Creature 'Candy Dress', Pauline Hoarau as Empress Aloï / Creature 'Swing Angel', Barbare Weber Scaff as Empress Aloï (voice), Marilhéa Peillard as Tsûuri, Lee Delong as Tsûuri / Tourist (voice), Judith Brunett as Mâatri (Tsûuri's Friend) (voice), Marie Barrouillet as Tsûuri Child, Cindy Bruna as Guard, Sija Titko as Guard, Daphnée Kbidi as Tortured Pearl, Nick Marzock as Tortured Pearl (voice), Ola Rapace as Major Gibson, Stefan Konarske as Captain Zito, Mahamadou Coulibaly as Major Gibon's Soldier / Igon Junio, Julien Marlin as Major Gibon's Soldier, Yvan Lucker as Major Gibon's Soldier, Tom Hygreck as Major Gibon's Soldier, Abel Jafri as Bus Driver, Laurent Ferraro as Igon Siruss / Doghan Dagui, Jean-Robert Lombard as Igon Sirus Guard, Leonid Glushchenko as Igon Sirus Guard, Akim Chir as Igon Sirus Guard, Laminé Ba as Igon Sirus Guard, Paul Lefèvre as Siirt Guard / Siirt Salesman, Guillaume Maison as Siirt Salesman, Jean-Christophe Brizard as Siirt Salesman, Patrick Cottet-Moine as Siirt Cop, Irene Palko as Female Tourist, Tonio Descanvelle as DA / Doghan-Dagui, Velvet D'Amour as Tourist, Doug Rand as Doghan-Dagui, Grant Moninger as Doghan-Dagui (voice), Robbie Rist as Doghan-Dagui (voice), Christopher Swindel as Doghan-Dagui (voice), Claire Tran as Bubble / Glamopod / Control Room Sergeant, Alain Etoundi as Club Bouncer, Fayet Nsumoto as Club Bouncer, Kristina Kachinskaya as Creature 'Twin', Veronika Khayla as Creature 'Twin', Sissi Duparc as Creature 'Louis XVI', Noam Frost as Creature 'Bird Woman', Pauline Serreau as Creature 'Tattoo', Philippe Rigot as Hero Merchant, Étienne Ménard as Red Zone Captain, Peter Lamarque as Warship Captain, Maximilien Seweryn as K-Tron Captain, Zouheir Zerhouni as K-Tron Warrior, Tristan Zerbib as K-Tron Warrior, Elliot Jenicot as Interrogation Room Captain, Staiv Gentis as Control Room Soldier, Chloe Hollings as Alex-Intruder's Voice (voice), Aguendia Fotabong as Boulan Bathor Emperor, Tania Dessources as Boulan Bathor Emperor's Wife, Gaëtan Cotigny as Fisherman, François Bredon as Fisherman, Cédric Chevalme as Bubble / Boulan-Bathor / Valerian
Also starring: Luc Besson