Valerian and the City of a Thousand planets came a little out of no where for us when the first trailer dropped a few months ago. The absolutely stunning visuals and variety of scenes and colours left us feeling ‘what is this movie?’ and ‘where did this come from?’ but with it’s Fifth Element vibe plus coming from the same director this ended up on our must watch list.
So what’s it about? Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is set in the future, well past 2150 which is the late date the movie shows in the intro. The International Space Station had become a meeting ground for all the nations of earth to join in peace. As the station grew it attracted other extraterrestrial life who also joined until the space station was so large it had to be moved from earth’s orbit becoming Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets.
The movie does not take place on Alpha entirely although a bulk of it does. Following special agents Valérian and Laureline the movies first sequence with the main characters does not shy away from using it’s special effects to drive what is going on. And this movie uses special effects A LOT. In just this first section we are taken to an inter-dimensional marketplace that you need to use special goggles to see but special boxes to be able to transport things to and from that dimension including if you wanted to say, hold a gun as part of a raid. Confused yet? Good thing you are going to be sitting down for the rest of this movie.
To give a little backstory – Valérian and Laureline were a series of french comics which were part of a series but wrapped up into arcs, a little like Asterix and Obelix or Tintin. Originally first started in 1967 and running as late as 2013 these books predated the Fifth Element. In a recent interview for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets director Luc Beeson said that he had always wanted to adapt Valerian for the screen and after watching it’s not hard to imagine that some elements of the Fifth Element came from Valerian.
When you first watched the Fifth Element there were any number of parts of the world which seemed so rich that they could be explored separately and Valerian feels like it exists in some of that world’s richness. While not explicitly intended to be part of the same canon you could be forgiven for assuming that both movies exist in the same world (especially with some similarities between aliens seen in the Fifth Element and this one).
This movie is pretty huge. Longer than the Fifth Element by 10 minutes clocking in at 2 hours 17 minutes there is a lot going on here. Possibly too much.
Anyone who read the Harry Potter books before they saw the first movie they were probably looking forward to certain parts being in it and feeling slightly disappointed how crammed in or shortened certain sequences felt. Valerian feels a lot like that. Even without knowing the comics we could tell there was a rich history behind some of the elements going on but some places felt like they had too much explanation and others didn’t have enough.
After seeing this we did feel like the movie definitely delivered on what we saw in the trailers with a ridiculous level of special effects in a variety of settings to a level that we honestly don’t think this movie could of been made without them. Not following the story line from the very first Valerian comic story arc (Empire of a Thousand Planets was 3 of 21) does give the movie an element of being self contained, and we honestly do not know if there would be a sequel (although we would go see it if it did).
So should you go see it? Yes. This is a popcorn sci-fi space flick with a lot of special effects and action sequences which is definitely in the same vein as the Fifth Element. BUT Valerian has both a lot more and a lot less than it’s copy. We have no doubt that this movie will be thought of in the future as a cult film, but with so much to take in it’s going to take some time before it gets there.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets opens in Cinemas across Australia from today.