Luc Besson has directed some very interesting films, to say the least. Of his previous films I was particularly fond of "La Femme Nikita", "Leon: The Professional" and "Lucy" a couple of years ago. Nikita and Lucy had an undeniable sex appeal and Leon was just well done.


Besson dips frequently into the fantasy basket as he did with "Lucy", the animated "Arthur and the Invisibles", and "The Fifth Element"; the latter of which was waaay out there. This time he adapts his treatment of the French graphic novel series by Jean-Claude Mezieres and Paul Christin.


Valerian (played by Dane DeHaan) is a Spatio-Temporal Agent who, along with his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne), travel the universe following the orders of his militaristic superiors to bring and keep order in the universe. Um, yes, it sounds a lot like Jedi knights save for the fact there is no Force involved. But, the Valerian series came into being ten years before Star Wars - in 1967 - and many of the elements are are noticed in Star Wars... and even Star Trek!

In this Besson written piece, Valerian and Laureline are sent to recover a last-of-its-kind critter that can duplicate anything it swallows - like the goose that lays the golden egg. The creature is from a long destroyed planet inhabited by a docile lovely Avatar-like species.


All the action is centered on a enormous space platform called Alpha which is inhabited by thirty million creatures (and humans) from throughout the Universe; we are introduced to Alpha at the onset of the film. We also learn the fate of the doomed planet at the beginning of the film when Valerian starts to have dreams about it.


They set out on the mission and face all kinds of fantastical beasts that kill just about everyone else but our two stars. Once they get possession of the critter things become a little murky with their commanding officer (Clive Owen).

One of those creatures they encounter is a dancing hooker named Bubbles who looks amazingly like Rihanna. She can morph into a variety of creatures and is apparently owned by a pimp-daddy named Jolly (played by Ethan Hawke).


There are also critters such as the ducklike Shingouz who will remind you of the Ferengi of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. They are extreme capitalist willing to sell anything and anyone for a price. There are a few other critters but most of the aliens are at least partially humanoid.


The societies include worlds that one can only see through special infrared glasses in parallel universes and underwater kingdoms. All of these become obstacles as Valerian and Laureline battle through the mission to discover the reason things are going haywire on Alpha.


In the long run, however, there is just too much stuff happening as the film collapses onto itself. Besson just creates too much of a fantasy and the story get thoroughly confusing before it finally wraps up in a nice bow 137 minutes later. And this is two hours a fifteen minutes that seems like three hours.


None of the characters are remotely interesting, though Rihanna is entertaining. DeHaan and Delevingne are as generic as one can guess. Herbie Hancock as the Big Giant Head? Um...


"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" is a sci-fi film that implodes by its own weight. It tries to be cool. It tries to be witty. It tries to be sexy. It tries but falls short. Interesting special effects.   -- GEOFF BURTON