Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Fifth Element director Luc Besson returns to epic sci-fi with an imaginatively designed space opera marred by a wonky script and a pair of dead-eyed leads

Film Review by Philip Concannon | 20 Jul 2017
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Film title: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Elizabeth Debicki, Ethan Hawke, John Goodman, Clive Owen, Rihanna
Release date: 2 Aug
Certificate: 12A

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the most expensive French film ever made and there's no denying that the budget is all up there on the screen. Luc Besson has conjured a fantastic universe in this 25th century space opera. The film takes place in a series of extraordinarily detailed environments populated by imaginative and brilliantly rendered alien life forms, and the fact that we only glimpse many of these species in passing suggests a vast galaxy that expands for light years in every direction.

You might be content to overlook the slapdash plotting and boilerplate dialogue and just enjoy the spectacle, but there's a black hole in the middle of the picture. As the heroic protagonists, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne deliver callow, charmless performances, and their flirtatious bickering is painful to endure.

Thank God, then, for Rihanna. In just a few minutes on screen she injects Valerian with a much-needed jolt of wit, sensuality, charisma and sheer star power. They're the kind of qualities money can't buy.

Released by Lionsgate