Thursday, July 20, 2017


Dane DeHaan     Cara Delevingne     Clive Owen     Ethan Hawke     Rihanna    
Herbie Hancock     Sam Spruell     Voices of:  John Goodman   Elizabeth Debicki

       Valerian (DeHaan) is obnoxious as he can be, but I enjoyed the rest of the cast in the movie, the story, and the special effects.  I’m curious about why Valerian is made to be heroic and still be so obtuse.  Does this come from the comics on which it is based or from Besson’s screenwriting?  Valerian’s fellow agent Laureline (DeLevigne) is sharp, emotionally attuned, and a real fighter when she needs to be.  The film should have been named “Laureline Saves an Agent and a Planet.”  Or at least “Valerian and Laureline”, as the comics are titled.
     At any rate, this very expensive indie film must have invested large sums for the portrayal of exotic creatures, Olivier Bériot’s costumes, Hugues Tissandier’s production design, and all the efforts and equipment involved in special effects; an investment well worth it in my opinion.  If the viewer just “goes with it” and suspends reality, it is an otherworld experience with exotic creatures, harrowing light-speed flights through space and falls to the depths of unknown places.  My favorite creatures are the willowy, iridescent Pearls, who are gentle, gentile, and smart enough to acquire knowledge of science and mathematics, and anything else they need to know to reconstruct their planet, which has been destroyed by an ignorant military force.  The pearls—ejected by “converters”—are life sustaining for the people of Mül, and they treat them respectfully. 
      Pearls in the film are metaphors for that which is of value, like the earth and nature.  “We give to the earth what the sea grants to us”, the Mül people say about their recycling, as they deposit pearls into the water.  In keeping with the film’s central message, we find out what happened to the Mül planet, and the ignorance on which the attack was based (e.g., “primitive” civilizations are not as important as ours—a la the current day message, “America First”). 
     Valerian and Laureline are charged with finding and recovering the universally coveted converter belonging to the people of Mül, called the Pearls, which went missing when they were attacked. The converter, which looks like an adorable animal, makes copies of anything it ingests and ejects the copies in endless amounts.  The Pearls give it pearls because they’re essential for their survival.  Others covet the converter for their own nefarious purposes.  The assignment to retrieve the converter takes the two agents through numerous venues—other planets, U.S. military space stations, a colorful “Big Market”, and even a fancy brothel.  Their paths cross those of Commander Filitta (Owen) and General Okto-Bar (Spruell), a Jabba the Hutt kind of character (Goodman), the pimp Jolly (Hawke), and an exotic dancer Bubble (Rihanna).  In the process of carrying out their assignment, the two agents survive life-threatening situations, but eventually uncover the mystery of what happened to the planet Mül.
     Director Luc Besson (Nikita, Lucy, The Fifth Element) wrote the screenplay, based on a French comics series, and although he successfully attempted to recreate some of the Star Wars elements, the dialog lacks the sharpness and creativity of the visuals.  Better editing could have omitted a number of scenes that are extraneous and shorten a 2½ hour film.  DeHaan is miscast as a heroic character, and he comes across as braggadocios and self-centered.  The rest of the cast are highly entertaining, particularly Delevingne, Owen, Hawke, Goodman, and Debicki.  Rihanna’s exotic, shape-shifting dance and song act is a highlight. 

Besson’s adventure is a wild tour of other worlds in time and space.

Grade:  B                                    By Donna R. Copeland

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