Despite being based on a cult French comic book, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets feels more like a video game adaptation. The simple storyline gets bogged down with excessive side adventures that feel like challenges you have to complete in order to progress, the visuals look like garish PS3-era special effects, while the movie opens with two extensive, excessive and mostly irrelevant sequences that feel like cut scenes.
Luc Besson has proved to be a fun director of big budget sci-fi and comic book adaptations before. Here, the world he is creating feels overwhelmingly fake, whereas prior films in his filmography have built oddball worlds that still feel tactile; The Fifth Element and his underrated 2010 comic book adaptation The Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec show a fondness for practical effects thrown out the window here, in favour of ugly CGI. The performances by the two leads are so non descript, they fit in perfectly with the poorly rendered universe created around them.
How can a movie with this level of manic, offbeat invention (Cara Delevigne puts her head up a jellyfish butthole for crying out loud) feel as dull as Valerian? I attempt to get to the bottom of this in the latest Bums on Seats podcast, where I also try to figure out if Luc Besson has accidentally included an anti-semetic dog whistle by introducing a species of aliens who ‘control the planet’s finances’. Did you really have to go there, Luc?