Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

04 June 2023
"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" is a visually stunning science fiction film directed by Luc Besson. Released in 2017, the movie takes audiences on an exhilarating journey through a vast and imaginative universe filled with breathtaking worlds, amazing creatures, and thrilling action sequences. With its ambitious world-building, captivating science fiction elements, and dazzling visuals, the film offers a unique and immersive cinematic experience.

Why the box office misfire?

The world-building in "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" is one of its strongest aspects. Set in the 28th century, the film showcases an intricately designed universe where different species from countless planets coexist. The titular city, Alpha, serves as a melting pot for these diverse civilizations, creating a vibrant and visually stunning backdrop for the story. Each zone within Alpha represents a distinct culture and environment, from the bustling marketplaces of the Mul Market to the serene and ethereal Blue Desert.

The attention to detail in the creation of this futuristic world is remarkable, with elaborate sets, intricate costumes, and stunning visual effects, immersing the audience in a rich tapestry of cultures, technologies, and environments.The science fiction elements in the film are both imaginative and thought-provoking. "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" seamlessly blends futuristic concepts with familiar elements, making the universe feel both fantastical and grounded. The film explores advanced technologies like shape-shifting spaceships, virtual reality simulations, and advanced weaponry. It also delves into the complexities of interstellar travel, including wormhole transportation systems and dimension-hopping. These elements not only serve the story's narrative but also spark the audience's imagination, inviting them to contemplate the possibilities of a future where such advancements are a reality.

One of the standout aspects of the film is the astonishing variety of creatures and aliens it presents. The visual effects and creature designs are truly remarkable, showcasing the creativity and skill of the visual effects team. From the cute and mischievous Mül Converter to the enigmatic and majestic Pearls, each creature has its own unique characteristics and appearance. The film goes beyond the typical humanoid aliens, introducing imaginative and alien designs that push the boundaries of our understanding.

The attention to detail in these creature designs is commendable, with intricate textures, lifelike movements, and expressive features that make them feel tangible and believable.

Themes of unity, diplomacy, and the consequences of colonialism are explored throughout the film. "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" presents a world where various species coexist in Alpha, highlighting the importance of understanding, cooperation, and mutual respect. It emphasizes the need to overcome cultural and racial barriers, showcasing the strength that comes from diverse communities working together. Additionally, the film raises questions about the ethics of exploring and exploiting new worlds.

It reflects on the consequences of unchecked expansionism, exploring the impact on both the inhabitants of the conquered worlds and the colonizers themselves. These themes add depth to the story, elevating it beyond a simple action-packed adventure.

ethan hawke jolly the pimp
Ethan Hawke as Jolly the Pimp

When comparing "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" to Luc Besson's other science fiction works, such as "The Fifth Element" (1997) and "Lucy" (2014), it becomes clear that Besson has a penchant for creating visually stunning and imaginative worlds. His unique style of blending action, humor, and dazzling visuals is present in all these films. 

However, "Valerian" stands out for its sheer ambition in world-building and the scale of its universe. While "The Fifth Element" introduced audiences to a quirky and stylized future Earth and "Lucy" explored themes of human potential and consciousness, "Valerian" offers a more extensive and immersive exploration of a science fiction world, inviting audiences to get lost in its vastness.

In terms of standard film review practices, the performances in "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" are solid. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne deliver engaging performances as the two charismatic leads, Valerian and Laureline. DeHaan brings a mix of cockiness and vulnerability to his role, while Delevingne portrays Laureline's intelligence and strength with conviction. The chemistry between the two leads adds depth to their characters and enhances their interactions on-screen. The film's pacing is generally well-executed, seamlessly transitioning between action sequences and quieter character moments. However, some scenes may feel a bit rushed or convoluted, particularly in the film's second half. Nonetheless, the action sequences are visually stunning and adrenaline-inducing, further enhancing the overall cinematic experience.

In conclusion, "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" is a visually stunning and ambitious science fiction film that transports audiences to a vast and imaginative universe. Its meticulous world-building, filled with amazing creatures and aliens, showcases Luc Besson's remarkable talent for creating visually captivating worlds. The film's science fiction elements are imaginative and thought-provoking, offering glimpses into a future where advanced technologies and interstellar travel are a reality.

With its themes of unity, diplomacy, and the consequences of colonialism, "Valerian" presents a story that goes beyond the surface-level action, adding depth and meaning to the narrative. Despite some pacing issues, the performances, visuals, and action sequences make for an engaging cinematic experience that science fiction enthusiasts will appreciate.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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