Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets divides critics

Is Luc Besson's new film 'mind-meltingly beautiful' - or just 'Eurotrash'?

Luc Besson, Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan
Luc Besson, Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan at Comic-Con International in San Diego, California
(Image credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Critics aren't sure what to make of Luc Besson's spectacular new sci-fi epic Valerian and the City Of A Thousand Planets.

Besson, best known for high-octane action films such as The Big Blue, The Fifth Element and Lucy, has adapted the film from a celebrated sci-fi comic book series long worshipped by artists and writers.

It follows the adventures of two special operatives in the 28th century, Laureline (Cara Delevingne) and Valerian (Dane DeHaan), to the city of Alpha, where species from across the universe live and share knowledge and culture. Their job is to identify and neutralise a dark force that threatens Alpha's peaceful co-existence and ultimately the future of the universe.

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Most reviewers agree the film is mind-bogglingly spectacular, but they're less sure about the story.

Bilge Ebiri in the Village Voice calls Valerian "gorgeous silliness" that is "beyond dazzling". Indeed, it is "so mind-meltingly beautiful and strange that I'm still not sure I didn't just dream it all".

Meanwhile Dave Ehrlich on IndieWire calls it "Star Wars on crystal meth", saying Valerian "offers more things to see in every frame than you can find in some entire franchises".

Herbie Hancock plays a deep-space defence minister, Rihanna appears as a shape-shifting alien stripper named Bubble and Ethan Hawke plays Jolly the Pimp - but, says the critic, the film is "so full of stuff that those three characters barely manage to stand out".

Valerian has created a "magnificent universe", Germain Lussier on Gizmodo agrees, but that's also its problem.

Besson is "so transfixed by the world he's created that he's often much more interested in showing it to you than telling an interesting story", he says.

There is also qualified praise from Peter Debruge in Variety. He says Besson's fast-paced direction propels us "from one cliffhanger to the next", but we're never given a clear idea "of what the duo's mission is supposed to be".

Toddy McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter goes further and nominates the film as an early contender for this year's Razzies.

Valerian is "unclear, unfun, indecipherable, indigestible" and, ultimately "Eurotrash", he says: "Sci-fi will need to lick its wounds for a while."

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