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Movie Review: "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets"

Updated on May 29, 2020
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Theatrical Release: 7/21/2017
Theatrical Release: 7/21/2017 | Source


Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are top agents that work for the government that runs Alpha, an intergalactic space station that consists of thousands of alien species and is known as the City of a Thousand Planets. While out on a mission, Valerian has a dream that shows him a tragic planetary disaster that occurred to a planet he did not recognize. Valerian wakes up from this dream and quickly realizes that this was no dream, it was a vision. Valerian tries to piece together what this vision meant. However, Valerian and Laureline are tasked with protecting a high ranking official while the government at Alpha attempts to get more intelligence on a growing threat within the city.

Official Trailer

The Pros
The Cons
Valerian & Laureline (+5pts)
Valerian's Consequences (-2pts)
Alpha (+3pts)
Introducing New Aliens (-3pts)
Mul (+6pts)
The Villain (-6pts)

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then awarded for each Pro and taken away for each Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points ranging from 0-10 allowing me to convey to you how significant these Pros or Cons are.


Pro: Valerian & Laureline (+5pts)

These two characters worked together and complemented each other pretty well on screen. Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is a hot-headed agent who is good with a gun and seems to thrive in chaotic action. He is also a womanizer, but seems to genuinely care for his partner, Laureline (Cara Delevingne). Laureline is definitely the brains of the duo. She knows the plan, follows the plan closely, and seems to think everything through. She also seems to be able to handle situations in which Valerian has caused things to get out of control. While they are both proficient in all areas, Laureline definitely excels through her intelligence, while Valerian seems to thrive when he has a weapon in his hands.

I thought Dane DeHaan did as well as could be expected in this movie. I thought the filmmakers could have gotten an actor that fit this role better, but he gave a decent enough performance nonetheless. I also think they could have gotten a more talented actress for the role of Laureline, but I thought Cara Delevingne did a decent enough job here as well. I do think their on screen chemistry worked, which is a pretty important element of a movie such as this, but they worked pretty well individually.


Con: Valerian's Consequences (-2pts)

Valerian seemed to be a bit of a bull in a china shop. When a mission called for control or restraint, he very quickly seemed to be running around firing his gun or drawing his sword. Other characters even made a point to say that such actions could lead to diplomatic or political issues with the alien races involved, but Valerian seemed to have no regard for potential consequences. The issue here, was that despite how many times characters implied that Valerian’s actions would have consequences, there never seemed to be any fallout. I ended up no longer worrying about him screwing things up, because the filmmakers cried wolf a few too many times.


Pro: Alpha (+3pts)

The movie opened by explaining how the City of a Thousand Planets was formed, which began in modern day with the creation of an international space station. As time went on, more countries slowly began joining the space station, causing it to increase in size. This continued for decades until an alien ship reached earth. This ship then docked onto the space station, where this alien species became the first non-human race to join the space station. As decades passed, more species continue to make contact with earth and join the station. All of these species continued to build the space station until it was far too massive to safely remain in earths orbit. Thus, the station—now named Alpha—left earth's orbit and became the City of a Thousand Planets.

I liked this element of the story. I liked the gradual build that began with countries—then progressed to different species—on the international space station. The sequence did three things very effectively. It appropriately showed how massive the city was. It effectively showed how much time had passed since modern day. It also makes a point of showing that humanity started it all, which makes us able to relate to it. I was expecting a typical sci-fi movie setup, but this ended up being a lot more interesting than I anticipated.


Con: Introducing New Aliens (-3pts)

This movie very naturally introduced a wide variety of alien races. However, it seemed to forcefully add others. Some species fit into this story well, but it seemed that whole scenes and plot points were added with the sole purpose of showing the next bizarre looking alien. This would have been fine to do once or twice, but it felt like it happened a lot and—where the movie was over two hours long—some of these plot points should have been cut. This was especially true, seeing as there were plenty of alien species that fit in the film naturally.


Pro: Mul (+6pts)

Mul was a planet that was destroyed 30 years prior to the events of this film. The planet was inhabited by an intelligent alien race that was nearly wiped out by tragedy. As foreign spaceships crashed to their planet‘s surface, a group of Mul's population managed to find refuge in one of the crashed vessels. These were the only survivors of the incident. The movie began with Valerian seeing all of this as a dream. He immediately realized that it was much more than a dream, so spent the rest of the movie trying to piece together what happened.

What caused the incident? What became of the survivors? How is Valerian connected to an incident that happened 30 years prior? I really enjoyed going along for the ride and trying to find the answers to these questions, and finding out what the Mul survivors were up to. This was an interesting plot that revolved around an interesting alien race and I thought the movie did a decent job of developing their storyline, while maintaining an element of mystery.


Con: The Villain (-6pts)

If you see how poorly the villain was developed, you might just think that this was a Marvel movie. It was not a Marvel film, but it had an extremely one-note and predictable villain. However, I will not mention who it was, because the movie acted like this was a plot twist. Most audiences will see the "twist" coming from miles away, and the villain was boringly typical. Their motives were unrelatable and their actions were far too severe. To put it simply: this was a very poorly written antagonist, which resulted in the movie being much less interesting than it could have been.

Grading Scale


Grade: C+ (78pts)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was honestly better than I expected after having seen the trailers and a big dose of bad reviews. While I do not think Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne would have been my first choices for these roles, I think they did fine in this movie. The two actors did not have great chemistry together, but they worked individually and their styles complemented each other well. I also enjoyed the main plot, which kept a shroud of mystery as it focused on the disaster of Mul and the fate of its few survivors. The movie was far from perfect, however, as the side missions felt forced and the villain was very poorly written. Some side missions felt forced into the story for the sole purpose of adding unnecessary time and introducing new, unique aliens. Then there was the villain, who was an extremely one-note character and whose actions were way too severe.

This movie was not bad, but it could have been a lot better. If the writers spent less time introducing random alien species and more time developing the story's villain, then the movie would have been a lot better. If the casting director found actors who better fit these roles, then the movie also could have been quite a bit better. Again, this was not a bad movie in my opinion, but it could have been a lot better.


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