David Bowie's Space Oddity opens Luc Besson's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a space opera that blends together a number of sci-fi favourites, and it certainly couldn't be a more suitable song choice. Besson's passion project is most definitely a space oddity with its fair share of problems however, it's also one of the most fun cinematic experiences I've had this summer blockbuster season.

When Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets, has its existence threatened, special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are tasked with uncovering the source of the threat before time runs out for Alpha and the rest of the universe.
Valerian is a visually ambitious film, stunning in its multitude of colours that light up the screen and detailed in the world envisioned by Besson and his visual effects team. They both make for a gorgeous backdrop for Besson to deliver his best film since The Fifth Element, a film that Valerian owes a hell of a lot to. There's plenty of action amidst the convoluted narrative, only a few in particular standing out, but they always find a way to make it feel fresh and exciting, both the visuals and Alexandre Desplat's score playing a major part.

The overblown narrative is one of the downfalls of the film, Besson distracting the audience from the main plot with a string of subplots that almost made me forget what the hell was going on at one point. It leads to the film being a tad too long but at no point was I ever bored, which was a worry of mine prior to this screening. 

Coming to the performances, Valerian has a rather oddball pairing spearheading the film in Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. The chemistry between the pair feels off from the very beginning, luckily getting better towards the end, but it's when the pair are not together where Valerian surprised me. I'm sorry but Dane DeHaan just isn't leading man material and he's shown up by Delevingne, who feels as if she's getting the hang of this acting malarkey. 

The supporting cast is rather appropriately a mixed bag of both characters and performances. Ethan Hawke is easily the best of the bunch as Jolly the Pimp while Clive Owen does himself a disservice with his performance as Commander Filitt. Rihanna's appearance as Bubble, a shapeshifting entertainer, will get the heart racing but her character is thankfully there to do more than just a sexy dance number. 

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets not being your usual science fiction affair is one of the film's key strengths, offering audiences sheer escapism from the generic summer blockbusters of the year. It's box-office numbers across the pond haven't been too impressive however, if you want something different and gorgeous to look at, look no further than Valerian.

Verdict: ★★★


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