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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

If you're familiar with Luc Besson's film The Fifth Element you'll find Valerian is the comfy chair sitting right next to it. The look and feel of the worlds presented in Valerian are similar in all the right ways, though a fair bit more CG and less rubber suits. I'm sure those who prefer practical effects over the CG will be upset, but I found most of it to be more seamless and less distracting. The mystery behind the story is simple, but interesting in the way it pulls you forward in search of new details to explain the tragedy on the planet Mul. The rest of it feels like a series of loosely connected action sequences, that, while entertaining on their own, don't all fit together very well taken as a whole.

When looking at characters, we have the "I just follow orders" Valerian who seems to avoid following most of the rules most of the time. We also learn almost immediately after he's introduced that he's possibly the greatest perpetrator of sexual harassment in the known universe, and this is blown off like "haha, isn't it funny that this guy has slept with every female he's ever encountered ever, and now he's being extremely inappropriate with his partner while on the job." I think the audience is supposed to find this funny or endearing or kind of slimy, but we're also supposed to see Valerian as the hero, so I found myself very confused. He's cocky and arrogant and not great at following orders and the constant harassment of Laureline makes me feel uncomfortable. Laureline, on the other hand, spends most of the movie either saving Valerian, or being saved by him. She doesn't take a whole lot of initiative on her own, and I found that disappointing. She also grudgingly puts up with Valerian's harassment, even after knowing how much of a sleaze he is (she demonstrates her familiarity with his past within the first few minutes of being introduced). Honestly, my favorite characters were all of the side characters. Captain Okto-Bar is really trying to do the best he can to solve the mystery and deal with the threats to Alpha. Ethan Hawke does a wonderful job as charismatic a pimp. Rihanna is an amazing performer, eager to be recognized as artistic. Sergeant Neza serves well under the Captain. Even a funny little submersible pilot named Bob the Pirate is entertaining for the time he's on screen. And don't get me wrong, Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan aren't doing a bad job as Laureline and Valerian, I just don't find them to be nearly as interesting as the supporting cast.

Did I enjoy the movie? Yes I did, and it's because the action that is there, as disconnected as it seems most of the time, is fun. The worldbuilding is thorough. The aliens are curious and, well, alien. And I really want to get an explanation of what happened to the people from Mul. So, lots of interesting supporting characters, some really fun action and sumptuous art design throughout, I think Valerian does, in the end, work out to be an enjoyable movie. Just know that I have some pretty serious issues with the main characters and their highly inappropriate relationship, and the kind of bullshit "love conquers all" message at the end, but if you can keep your expectations fairly low and go in expecting a fun ride, I think you'll like it just fine.

3/5