ReelBob: ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ ★★

By Bob Bloom

Director Luc Besson’s science fiction-fantasy, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” nearly suffocates under its own weight.

The film, based on a French comic book series, has been a dream project of Besson’s, who also wrote the screenplay, for years.

But this space opera takes itself much too seriously and, at about 137 minutes, is too long and meandering.

The story is not so much a film as a travelogue of a gigantic space station, Alpha Station, that houses millions of residents comprising thousands of species from throughout the galaxy.

“Valerian” should be more in the vein of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, “Flash Gordon” or Besson’s earlier “The Fifth Element.”

Instead, it is a formulaic tale of government cover-up, refugees in hiding, a magical-like creature and political corruption. It sounds more like Earth in 2017 than a galactic saga set centuries in the future.

Visually, the movie is an imaginative festival of dazzling images and colors.

The story and characters, however, are dull and shallow in comparison.

Dana DeHaan is the bland Major Valerian and Cara Delevingne is his partner, Sgt. Laureline. These government agents enforce the law, undertake covert missions and race in and out of trouble.

DeHaan looks and sounds like a low-budget Keanu Reeves clone and emotes about as much as “The Matrix” star.

Delevingne brings some spunk to the role and is the only character to liven the movie. Too bad, she was not the main protagonist.

Though supposedly lovers, the chemistry between Valerian and Laureline barely registers. At times, it feels as if they are working in different movies.

Forget about the plot. It gets lost and forgotten as the film meanders from one gorgeous CGI sequence to another.

Underneath all the glitz, though, is a barren shell, with B-movie, exclamation point or useless exposition dialogue.

Beeson’s vision is imaginative, but it takes more than that and special effects that distract your attention to create a feature.

Multi-dimensional characters, a strong script and a coherent plot also must be added to the mix.

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” lacks most of that. It is a movie for those who value style over substance.

2 stars out of 4
(PG-13), science fiction violence and action, language, suggestive material

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