Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Critics Consensus

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets uses sheer kinetic energy and visual thrills to overcome narrative obstacles and offer a viewing experience whose surreal pleasures often outweigh its flaws.



Total Count: 282


Audience Score

User Ratings: 27,521
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Movie Info

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is the visually spectacular new adventure film from Luc Besson, the legendary director of The Professional, The Fifth Element and Lucy, based on the ground-breaking comic book series which inspired a generation of artists, writers and filmmakers. In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha-an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

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Dane DeHaan
as Valerian
Cara Delevingne
as Laureline
Clive Owen
as Commander Arün Filitt
as Bubble
Ethan Hawke
as Jolly the Pimp
Herbie Hancock
as Defence Minister
Kris Wu
as Neza
Rutger Hauer
as President of the World State Fed.
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Critic Reviews for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

All Critics (282) | Top Critics (47) | Fresh (134) | Rotten (148)

  • It's an enjoyable mess. Like all modern fantasy based on computer-generated technique, it confuses movement and action.

    Aug 16, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • [It has] a lethargic, lurching narrative that bounces between trailer-ready effects set pieces, and then scrambles, in a truly desperate final act, for something resembling meaning, depth and emotional connection.

    Aug 3, 2017 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • DeHaan and Delevingne can do better - and so can the rest of us.

    Aug 3, 2017 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • You don't watch The Fifth Element for its storytelling, you watch it for its joyous, ridiculous sense of place and style, and that's doubly true for Valerian -- a movie that isn't nearly as memorable, but that works just fine as a tribute.

    Jul 28, 2017 | Full Review…
  • You come away admiring the effort while lamenting the execution, but swinging and missing is always better than not swinging at all.

    Jul 21, 2017 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…
  • A ripe visual adventure of limitless imagination hamstrung by an undercooked plot propelled by lackluster heroes.

    Jul 21, 2017 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

    Thelma Adams

    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

  • Jan 14, 2019
    Delevingne is an excellent actor if she can make me believe the horrible dialogue in this film. Using Aristotle, with 5 = best and 1 = worst: Plot 1, Character 2 (the secondary characters are interesting), Ideas = 1 (What indeed is this film trying to say?), Sound/Music = 3 (Average. I did notice the use of Staying Alive by the Bee Gees), Diction = 0 (This is the worst thing about this movie), Spectacle = 5. The film looks great. That's the most I can really say for it.
    Morris N Super Reviewer
  • Jul 02, 2018
    From Luc Besson comes the sci-fi adventure film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a visual spectacle that's a fest for the eyes (but not much else). Based on a graphic novel series, the story follows a pair of special agents who are tasked with uncovering the source of a mysterious radiation that's infecting the space station Alpha and threatens to destroy it. Unfortunately Dane DeHaan is horribly miscast and has no chemistry with co-star Cara Delevingne. DeHaan lacks the charm and charisma needed to pull off the character, which is a fatal flaw of the film. Also problematic is the overload of weird aliens and futuristic technology (making the film incredibly convoluted and hard to follow). Yet, there are some amazing special effects and some really interesting set and creature designs. And the score isn't that bad either. But despite the imaginative aesthetic, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a clusterf***.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 14, 2018
    (2 1/2 stars) Luc Besson, the visionary behind some major staples in the film industry such as The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional, La Femme Nikita, The Transporter, and Taken (just to name a few), has always been a director/screenwriter/producer with eyes bigger than his stomach. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets falls perfectly into that category of a film full of visual splendor and technical marvel but without a solid story to build around. Besson had major tent-pole actors like Bruce Willis, Liam Neeson, or Jason Statham to build and start these journeys with in his other films. For Valerian, one he self describes as his 'life's work', it feels most of the budget went to everything but the actors. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne deliver staccato performances because of chopped and skewered dialogue reserved to one liners. One of the major problems of the film is its tonal shifts from syfy goofiness, to life-or-death seriousness, flipped to a romantic comedy before finishing with an action-heavy, save-the-day style climax. It's all over the place. The plot follows much of the same bounciness. Perhaps it's because Besson wanted to follow the comic and include as much as he could from the first issue, or maybe he just felt like showing off as much of the universe as he could, but while each 'side mission' may have some some small relevance to the overall story, it's tough to care about a pretty bland tale when you spend 30 minutes venturing off the path. But even with all the commotion between the themes shifting every so often and the plot never staying true to its course, Valerian (a title given for the main character's name), is a beauty to watch. You can tell there was meticulous time spent crafting each character in real life and CGI. Valerian won't match any of the previous films Besson bestowed upon us in the past despite him thinking this was his magnum opus, but it will leave you with a pleasant feeling should you decide to watch based on an a relatively clean outcome and a visual roller coaster ride to take you there.
    Lane Z Super Reviewer
  • Jan 15, 2018
    Awesome name right, flippin' awesome. This attractively titled movie is based on the French comicbook series [i]Valérian and Laureline[/i]. I've never heard of this comicbook series but apparently its one of the biggest Franco-Belgian titles around. There is also an animated series of this comic too, who'd of thought it. I really liked the basic setup for this movie. Via flashbacks in the opening credits we are told the story of the International Space Station (ISS). It starts off historically accurate showcasing the station being placed into Earth's orbit, and then slowly over the years sections being added and different countries joining the crew. But as we progress further into the future things obviously become more fictional with the station growing larger and larger and eventually alien creatures greeting humans on-board in diplomatic, historical events. It gets to a point where ISS is so big it becomes a danger to Earth, so its moved off into deep space and renamed 'Alpha'. And thus we have the massive space city of a thousand planets (referring to all the alien species that live within the city). This one concept is fantastic, love it. The rest of the films plot not so much. Essentially what we have is yet another Avatar-esque story surrounding a primitive race of aliens that have their home planet unceremoniously wiped out by nasty humans. It wasn't an intentional act mind you but whatever. These aliens infiltrate the massive Alpha city to assimilate human knowledge in order to build a new ship that can recreate their home world (I didn't understand this part). This also involved finding a couple mcguffins and some kidnapping hijinks, which in turn brings in our human protagonists, Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) to solve the case. Right lets look at the best part of this movie, in fact its the only good thing in this movie. So Valerian and Laureline have been tasked with finding the 'Mül converter', a creature that can clone anything it eats, and it can apparently eat anything? This meant going to a vast open desert which is the location of an extra-dimensional market place, and tourist attraction. Within the extra-dimensional marketplace they must infiltrate an alien gangsters lair to steal said converter. So basically what this means is, somewhere else in the universe (and in another dimension) there is this huge Tatooine-esque town and market. But the only way to reach or visit it is via special attire that allows the user to cross space and time in an instant. The user is basically a projected hologram in the distant extra-dimensional market place; whilst back in the desert the user walks around almost like they're using a virtual reality headset. At the same time Valerian is able to use smaller versions of this technology in the form of a simple cube device. This allows him to simply put his hand into the cube which contains a portal of sorts. So on one side of the cube his hand is in the extra-dimensional market place, like a dismembered floating hand; whilst the rest of him is still in the desert in relative safety. It all sounds quite complex and its hard to explain in writing, but trust me its a fantastic bit of futuristic visual fantasy. In short what we get for the first half of this movie (after a rather soppy beginning involving the primitive alien race) is a superb slice of science fiction that encapsulates amazing imagination, mind boggling futuristic technology, wonderfully designed alien beings, an atmospheric setting, and a thrilling rollercoaster of a ride. Admittedly its not all perfectly original as we've all seen sandy alien marketplaces before...ahem, but that's being picky. But here lies the problem with this movie. After this mesmerising sequence of innovative action the entire movie literally falls to pieces, its crumbles under its own weight. For a start it won't have escaped your attention that the two protagonists are utterly terrible and miscast. Both DeHaan and Delevingne come across like emotionless robots with glazed over eyes. The duo don't gel together romantically or when the action kicks in. Its actually quite remarkable really, both come across like CGI characters devoid of any real human characteristics, its like they were both grown in a lab by Hollywood. DeHaan looks like a younger DiCaprio but with none of the talent; whilst Delevingne has one default facial expression she obviously learnt from her fashion modelling days. These main character issues obviously affect other parts of the movie. Naturally you as the viewer don't care about either of them; you know neither will die anyway but you couldn't care a less because they're so robotic. When we are first introduced to both Valerian and Laureline, Valerian proposes to Laureline, but she says no. This is supposed to make us feel emotion for Valerian, but because they are both so zombie-like in performance and we know nothing about them, its falls completely flat. In the fantastic marketplace action sequence the duo actually infiltrate said marketplace with a team of other elite police officers. All these guys get killed...but who cares? Well clearly Valerian and Laureline don't, just another day at the office. On space station Alpha during an important summit meeting to discuss the mysterious toxic zone at the centre of the station, the primitive aliens break in and kidnap Commander Arün Filitt (Clive Owen). This really made no sense because we are led to believe that technology is so advanced in this age that the sheer notion of anyone being able to sneak into an important area in the station and actually take out all the security...would be nigh on impossible. Yet the so called primitive race manage just this and kidnap the commander. They also managed to land their craft nearby, and no one detected this? The fact these primitive aliens also seem to be so very environmentally friendly, passive and perfect makes this political move even more unbelievable really. We're talking about half naked aliens covered in seashell jewellery here people. This leads to a large chase sequence where Valerian suits up in some other super hi-tech suit thing which enables him to smash through any and all walls. This gives us a brilliant sequence showcasing all the various environments within Alpha. Problem is these different environments include underwater sections and areas which are clearly finely balanced for their alien inhabitants. But none of that matters because Valerian smashes through walls, seemingly obliterating balanced environments yet not causing any major catastrophes such as huge leaks from the underwater areas. Things go from bad to worse as we are introduced to the three exposition aliens that try to simplify the plot for us when things get too ridiculous. There's an entire underwater sequence with a Captain Nemo type character that is completely pointless. There's the casting of Rihanna as a shapeshifting alien dancer called Bubble (pretty awful CGI effects). Much like the Captain Nemo character Bubble is also pretty pointless and could have quite easily been removed. Obviously Besson wanted Rihanna in for the star power. Speaking of wanting star power, there's also Ethan Hawke as Bubble's pimp, again pointless. There are jellyfish type creatures that can read your brain and show you pretty much everything that's ever popped in there, including dreams and visions. Huge sea creatures live in sections of Alpha apparently. And there are also entire undiscovered civilisations within Alpha, that's how big it is. There is so much I could write about this movie both good and bad. The reason being there is so much in-depth detail and world building in this movie, its quite an achievement really. Luc Besson has outdone himself here and easily bettered his other famous sci-fi 'The Fifth Element' in my opinion. Although I have no idea how accurate this is to the original source material. But the one huge sticky problem is...the movie just can't sustain itself and just collapses. It goes from being a reasonably intelligent, exciting and unique space opera into a formulaic, messy, incoherent, unoriginal snooze fest. Don't get me wrong, the movie looks incredible with its lavish other-worldly designs and vivid aliens, but talk about an anti-climax. So kudos for nearly everything, but maybe they should have focused the movie around that first marketplace location. Really wanted to love this but in the end I can't help but feel disappointed.
    Phil H Super Reviewer

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