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Besson’s Space oddity

03 August, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Rihanna in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Directed by Luc Besson
Certificate 12a
☆☆☆

LUC Besson’s film-making is very much based on a visual talent, which at first may sound enough to make him an ace director.

His films look good – but annoyingly for those of us who want to be dedicated fans, he does not always quite get the narrative right, despite his undoubted ability to make the screen crackle with wit and energy.

And that is at the heart of this big-budget adaptation of a French comic book. It is a gorgeous feast of steam-punkish originality, Gallic sci-fi, originality in terms of stylised set design and boasts brilliant graphics, gadgets and just downright oddness throughout.

Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is the special agent whose job is to root out intergalactic badness, alongside his partner and love Laureline (Cara Delevingne) – and decipher a mysterious plot that threatens a huge and extraordinary space station city that offers peaceful quarters to beings from all four corners of the universe.

But something is rotten at the heart of the city and threatens its peaceful existence: cue Valerian and Laureline to crack the case.

It would be too easy to criticise the model-turned-actor Delevingne for a one dimensional performance. But it doesn’t feel much her fault. She seems to be the victim of both miscasting – the pair together are pretty atrocious – and the lines she is given to deliver. They are very much like conversations taken from a textbook, as if the second language barrier was hard for Besson to overcome.

Some of the lines are utterly trashy, others are completely terrible, badly delivered garble. Perhaps it is lost in translation.

And then there are the wobbly plot clichés – there is even a ticking time bomb climax to deal with – which again undermines Besson’s overall good stuff.

But what is truly splendid is the way it looks, and the kookier elements of the tale.

Besson has always gone about things differently, and that is what makes him so refreshing.

While this is round the twist, it is round the twist fun and even has a cool message hidden among all the set-piece battles and chunky effects.

If you can gaze beyond the leads, this is as good as any sci-fi summer flick out this year.

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