Prolific French filmmaker Luc Besson brings to the big screen the French sci-fi/action comic "Valerian and Laureline" by replacing Laureline with a gigantic space station hosting “thousands” of alien races in ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.' V&TCO1000P is easily Besson’s most ambitious, sprawling, visually stylish and expensive gamble, I mean project, since ‘The Fifth Element’ starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich some 20 years ago. Being a fan of T5E I marked this movie on my “to see” list ever since I initially saw its colorful and swashbuckling trailer packed to the gills with unique aliens and gee-whiz futurama, but in the deep recess of my mind lurked the nagging fear that it would turn out to be another ‘Jupiter Ascending.’ Therefore, I took care not to dial my expectations up too high.
Aside from the fact that I never read the comic which inspired it, that is perhaps why I enjoyed V&TCO1000P so much. Major Valerian (Dane DeHann) and his comely and sassy blonde sidekick Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are elite agents of a special Space Police unit operating out of a giant space station named “Alpha” which hosts innumerable alien races (think Babylon 5 but much, much bigger) living in peaceful harmony. A seemingly routine mission to recover a valuable device (a power converter) on a desert planet thrusts Valerian and Laureline into a web of deceit and intrigue involving a race of lithe, androgynous and translucent-skinned aliens.
Critics have faulted V&TCO1000P mostly for its weak and contrived story but come on, this is a Luc Besson movie we’re talking about. While the plot isn’t exactly awesome or original for that matter, it is much more conventional and straightforward than, say, Besson’s ‘Lucy.’ With its campy humor, wild-eyed fantasy and high-tech Avatar-esque visuals, V&TCO1000P is a rollicking space opera that’s fun for the whole family. I’ve learned long ago that Luc Besson movies are visceral experiences; don’t overthink them and just sit back and enjoy the ride. Oh, and don’t forget the popcorn.