French film-maker Luc Besson (The Professional, Lucy) returns to the world of epic sci-fi 20 years after The Fifth Element for this colourful space adventure that features a lot of nice things to look at, but never finds its feet, dramatically-speaking.
The film is based upon Valerian and Laureline, a colourful sci-fi fantasy comic book series popular in Europe that influenced everything from Star Wars to The Fifth Element itself. Set in the 28th century, it chronicled the adventures of the titular intergalactic secret agents, who are embodied on the big screen by Dane DeHaan (A Cure For Wellness) and Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad).
The plot of the movie has the pair chasing down a universe-spanning conspiracy that threatens the existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, a gargantuan structure that began life in our time as the International Space Station and grew over the subsequent centuries to become the diplomatically-critical home to hundreds of species from all over the galaxy.
The film opens with a stunning sequence that chronicles the city's expansion over the years via a series of first encounters with increasingly weird aliens. Set perfectly to David Bowie's Space Oddity, it establishes a boundless sense of groovy wonder that the rest of the movie can never quite recapture.
The first big action set piece is indicative of the strained relationship between the film's ambitions and their execution. A dizzying chase through a huge marketplace that exists in multiple dimensions at the same time, the scene is conceptually mind-blowing yet only marginally diverting to behold at the best of times, and incoherent at the worst.
There is no shortage of colour and imagination in the multitude of creatures and settings offered up throughout this film, but the stakes are only ever articulated, (repeatedly so), and never tangibly felt. As the dazzling special effects unfurl throughout an array of ambitious set pieces, you'll begin to wonder when any of it is going to mean anything.
I would usually be more than ready to endorse a film that presented little more than a surfeit of eye-popping visuals, but liking a movie shouldn't require this much effort.
Cara Delevingne, Dane DeHaan, John Goodman
M (Fantasy violence)
Dazzling special effects in search of a story
DID YOU KNOW...
Based on a true story, the real-life Annabelle doll was a Raggedy Ann toy, however filmmakers decided to use a porcelain doll in the film to make her appear more sinister.