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When Luc Besson brings a new film to the market as a director, it never arrives anonymously. It is a true film event. While Luc Besson is a hyper-active producer with 88 movies since 1981, he has only directed 19 so far. So each film he directs is a rare and precious gem stone. When this year, it was announced that Valerian and the city of a thousand planets would be on screen, everybody did a comparison with Besson’s Fifth Element. It was 20 years ago when Luc Besson reinvented the Space Opera genre with the amazing Fifth Element. With a total budget of USD 90 Million, the 1997 movie was a big hit at the Box-Office with almost USD 270 Million sales. With Valerian, Luc Besson had the ambition to bring back a SciFi story and he placed a total budget of USD 197 Million. So far the film paid itself, so at least Besson will have enough money to pursuit his path, potentially with a sequel. After watching the film, we do think it is not the best Besson, and here is why.

The film plot: too pinky, too cheesy.

One major problem with Valerian is that all the scenario was easy to guess. The 2 main characters were in love with each other at the beginning of the movie and everybody knew that after a battle with bad guys, and potentially some sort of difficulty, they would end up happy ever after. There was something too straight forward and easy to guess that made the film, and especially the second part, very easy to understand and therefore quite boring. Here is the consensus critics done by Rotten Tomatoes:

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planetsuses sheer kinetic energy and visual thrills to overcome narrative obstacles and offer a viewing experience whose surreal pleasures often outweigh its flaws” – Rotten Tomatoes

There was a strange feeling that Luc Besson watched James Cameron’s Avatar and brought a cheaper- less interesting version of it. It is a pity because Alpha (the station which became a multi-planetarium city) had a tremendous potential to capitalize in a more interesting and sarcastic story. Really deceptive.

We would have expected not a big scenario but stronger characters, this is the true creative power of Besson. Build up simple stories that generate great interest because of the deepness of the characters playing.

The main character, a “true” hero smelling baby powder

Probably one of the main issues with the movie is the description of the main character. Major Valerian, a space-and-time-traveling agent and Laureline’s partner/love interest. He is a true hero, aiming to save the world. When we compare him with the character of Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) in the Fifth Element, we can see that Besson does not know how to treat real heroes. Besson talent is tremendous when it comes to non-heroes characters: Men not willing to save the world and who end up saving it anyway. The anti-hero plot is much more in Besson’s street than the normal one. Here are the amazing anti-heroes movies Besson did and they were all a great hit:

  • 1985 – Subway with Fred (Christophe Lambert)
  • 1988 – The Big Blue with Jacques Maillot (Jean-Marc Barr)
  • 1990 – Nikita with Nikita (Anne Parillaud)
  • 1994 – Leon the Professional with Leone Montana (Jean Reno)
  • 1997 – The Fifth Element with Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis)
  • 2005 – Angel-A with Angel-A (Rie Rasmussen)
  • 2014 – Lucy with Lucy (Scarlett Johansson)

Luc Besson has pictured amazing anti-hero characters. They did not want to save the world, they wanted to save themselves first! And if by coincidence they would save the world…. fine.
In Valerian and the city of a Thousand Planet, Besson presents a quite pinky-cheesy main heroes. Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline have a taste of Red-Bull and clean cotton. They are up to save the world, they are clean and cute.
The choice of Dane William DeHaan is not necessary the best one as Major Valerian. The 31 years old actor is very clean and not subversive enough. Major Valerian does not have the deepness and complexity of a Korben Dallas or a Leon.


Sergeant Laureline is played by Cara Delevingne. The young actress and model brings a certain attitude to the role but it all stay in clean white cotton sheets. Nothing to do with Nikita or even Lucy. Their play and their characters looked more like a Perfume advertising than a true space-war ambiance.


In conclusion, we can say that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is not the best Besson. We are happy that he paid himself, so at least we can hope that he will have enough means to do better next time. Luc Besson and EuropaCorp declared that there is room for a sequel, if the fans would ask for it. Well, not sure anyone would ask for it, so do not bother. We wish to see Besson back to black. He is preparing a new Thriller called ANNA. It is supposed to be a crossroad between Leon and Nikita. This is super exciting and hopefully we will get back the Besson we all love.

José Amorim

Info sourced at the viewing of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available. Images are for illustration purposes only.