* * * * A
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a science fiction film by Luc Besson (maker of The Fifth Element and Taken), and is based on a French graphic novel. I would describe it as a cross between Avatar and Star Wars, but it is more imaginative than either of those films. It is definitely space opera, not hard science fiction, but takes far more delight in the science than films like Guardians of the Galaxy or Star Wars. What I like most about this film is its originality, making it stand out among the string of sequels we’ve seen top the box office this summer.
The main characters, Valerian (Dane “Green Goblin” DeHaan) and Lauraline (Cara “The Enchantress” Delevingne) are well played and the actors have good chemistry. Commander Fillitt, the city’s military leader, is also well played by Clive Owen. Rihanna, who has a minor but important role, is the weak link, as far as her acting goes, but Besson has fun with her, and her performance doesn’t detract from the film.
This is a beautiful film. It has a strong romantic subplot that winds through it, as well as a commentary on colonialism that, unlike Avatar, is not entirely in your face. These are secondary to the worlds that Besson immerses you in and the hard driving action of the main plot, which is nearly non stop. I’m sure that this film will replace The Fifth Element as Besson’s fan favorite in years to come.