CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
UAE/US/Belgium - 2017)
Written and directed by Luc Besson. Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delavingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Rutger Hauer, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Sam Spruell, Alain Chabot, Peter Hudson, Xavier Giannoli, Ola Rapace, Matthieu Kassovitz, Louis Leterrier, Olivier Megaton, voices of John Goodman, Elizabeth Debicki. (PG-13, 137 mins)
A long-planned pet project of legendary French auteur Luc Besson, VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is an adaptation Valerian and Laureline, a sci-fi comic book series by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres that began way back in 1967 and ran until 2010. Filled with eye-popping artwork, the comics became a clear influence on other films, ranging from old-school animated classics like FANTASTIC PLANET and HEAVY METAL to STAR WARS and TOTAL RECALL and CGI-era films like AVATAR and JOHN CARTER. Mezieres also did some conceptual artwork during pre-production on Besson's 1997 favorite THE FIFTH ELEMENT, which now looks like a test run for VALERIAN, a $210 million, six-country co-production that currently stands as the most expensive independent film ever made. It's a film that manages to succeed entirely on being deliriously imaginative eye candy. The story on the other hand, inadvertently suffers from so many of its ideas and plot points already being utilized by films that came one to five decades before it. Among other things, there's a giant virtual reality shopping mall, some space battles straight out of STAR WARS, an alien baddie--voiced by John Goodman--who looks like Jabba the Hutt's younger brother, and a race of alien beings that not only seem to have wandered in from AVATAR outtakes but also have a FANTASTIC PLANET look about them, living on a planet that looks like a Roger Dean wet dream.