(Rated PG-13) 2 Aliens (Out of 4)
The new film “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” certainly has an intimidating title. Some of you may have scratched your head at the title, while other film fans knew it was based on a comic book.
With movies based on comic book charters being the hottest genre of films over the last several years, it should come as no surprise Hollywood decided to make a film based on the Valerian comics. The story is set in the 28th century and features a special operative team consisting of Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), who maintain order throughout the various human territories in space. The two are sent to Aplah, an ever growing space station/metropolis where species from throughout the universe have gathered to share knowledge and cultures, in order to identify a menace that threatens all those who reside there. Think of Alpha as a United Nations in outer-space. Alpha features all manner of aliens, some of which would be at home in any “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” movie. If only this movie were as good as the aforementioned film series. This is a film that sends characters into another dimension when they don special glasses, providing a perfect excuse for the special effects team to run wild. The bottom line of the often confusing plot is Valerian and Laureline are attempting to stop the bad guys of the film, who turn out not to be the ones we suspect, and Valerians attempts at convincing Laureline to marry him. The film also features the always talented Clive Owen as Valerian and Laureline’s commander, and singer Rihanna as a shape-shifting entertainer named Bubble. Yes, Bubble. I must say the film kept my attention, but not in the way I had hoped. The film provides tons of glorious cinema eye candy with eye-popping colors and amazing 3D effects, but the distractions do not deter from the films real problem: the actors, at least the live-action ones. While DeHann and Delevingne are pleasant enough to watch, their “acting” would make a community theater cower in shame. Lead actor DeHann at times appears to have dark circles under his eyes (perhaps from staying awake nights wondering why he chose this film), while Delevingne’s eyebrows would make Joan Crawford jealous. Dark circles and eyebrows do not a good actor make. While I was watching this duo with their total lack of onscreen chemistry, I kept wondering if they might redeem themselves by the end of the film. Alas, their performances fall with a resounding thud. One would imagine Owen and Rihanna might add some life to the proceedings, but even Owen seems bored and Rihanna is basically used as if she were doing dance moves from her concerts. The best actors in the film by far are the main CGI aliens from the planet Mul, who display more emotion than any of the human actors in the film. In hindsight, maybe the filmmakers should have used all CGI actors and saved us the pain and the actors the embarrassment. Director Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”) does the best he can with the material, but did nothing to save the actors from residing in mannequin land. For me, the best aspects of the film are the dazzling visuals and 3D effects. Thus, if you don’t mind dealing with stiff acting and a messy plot line to see breathtaking visuals, then “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.