“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” wants so hard to be good. Much like Pinocchio, it dances around the cinema screen and wants a modern audience to love it. But, it’s everything awful about Luc Besson and genre film making rolled into one overlong film. What do I mean by everything awful? Well, when ambition meets a budget…the result for cult adaptations tends to be muddied. The desire for cross market appeal can’t work when bridging trippy French comics to a modern sensibility.

So many people forget that a compelling visual narrative is half of the cinematic experience. However, a film should have more than Cara Delevigne wearing the biggest sombrero in the galaxy. There are kids and dare I say some adults in the audience who’ll want to have an understandable backstory for this world. How are we supposed to believe in a Muppet Babies era Corbin Dallas riff working as a interplanetary agent of badassery? If that wasn’t enough, how are we supposed to believe that he could really be getting married to Cara Delevigne.

The level of casting woes on display feel like they belong to another era. For every humorous turn involving Ethan Hawke as a space pimp, you’ve got the teenage looking leads. Then, you’ve got Clive Owen looking like he’s bored to be there. Hell, did you like Elizabeth Debicki as a regal figure in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”? She’s playing the same kind of role in this movie. It’s not all bad, as Rutger Hauer and John Goodman shined in minuscule turns. There’s just this thing about the casting that’s bothering me.


Let’s talk about Rihanna. She features prominently in the advertising for the film, but all she’s doing is playing sexy Jar Jar Binks. Her character of Bubble or The Bubble serves as one of the film’s many exposition dumps and forced plot devices. When she brings the film to a halt, this is where you’re going to start noticing your first wave of audience members leaving. She’s a shape shifting blob that chooses to entertain the alien masses as a humanoid stripper. Her routine offers nothing to the movie other than screaming, I’M MISTER RIHANNA MEESEEKS LOOK AT ME!

It’s funny that a Sci-Fi fantasy has a space pimp save the day. Ethan Hawke’s pimp character owns the cantina/dive lounge where Rihanna works and blunders about it to make the finale rescue work. While the focus of that set piece is on how Rihanna helps Valerian save the day, Ethan Hawke keeps working on the periphery like a comedic mechanic keeping this ship from taking on too much water. Honestly, it doesn’t change the fact that Rihanna only exists to bump this film up from a PG to a PG-13.

What’s left to say? The movie feels like it was made in another language and then given to the Yahoo Answers crew to dub into English. The action and CG staging plays like a Nickelodeon Films project. When it wants to be mature, it feels like kids playing dress-up. When it wants to be funny, it asks the audience to make giant logistic leaps for it to work. Still, the best part of the movie is Valerian saying he follows the rules and then punching his commanding officer in the face. In time, that will be the “Oh Hi Mark” for a new generation.

Check it out now before it becomes Besson’s next box office bomb turned cult favorite. You’ll look like a God to the AV Clubs of 2032.


  • 2 hrs and 17 mins
  • PG-13
  • STX/Universal



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