Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets … Don’t Bother!  (A movie review)

Released in theaters

  • July, 2017


  • 51% – Rotten Tomatoes Critics
  • 57% – Rotten Tomatoes Movie Goers
  • 15% – Roger Koehler


  • Cara Delavingne, Dane DeHaan and Clive Owen

Directed by

  • Luc Besson

For those of you who have read my reviews in the past, you should have a pretty good idea that I like going to movies, and I generally try to see the best in a movie – to at least try and find something good to take away from a movie so I don’t feel totally disappointed.

There have not been many movies that I have seen over the years that fit that latter description … but Valerian is damn close.

It is quite simply an Avatar  rip-off that fails on almost every level it tries to achieve.  Even if there had never been an Avatar, this movie would fail simply on its own merits – or lack thereof.

The movie is based upon a long running (1967-2010) French comic book series, Valerian and Laureline, which was apparently somewhat popular, at least in France, but never really caught on in the U.S.  That is something I can understand.

Valerian - comic book

We saw it in 3D, which added nothing to the movie.  The main plot of the movie is that a futuristic race of beings had their idyllic planet destroyed by a Federation general who did so knowingly in order to save his own ass.  The few survivors of that race are now in danger of being completely eliminated to cover up the general’s original sin.

To picture in your mind the idyllic race in this movie, simply think of the Na’vi – the race of incredibly tall beings in Avatar, who also had their existence threatened by humans.  Now go ahead and imagine the Na’vi, but without the extra height – the similarity is THAT stark.

Even the full name of the movie, which includes “City of a Thousand Planets” makes very little sense.  There is such a “city” in the story, called Alpha.  Think of the Death Star, from Star Wars, but with a lot of rough edges.  Alpha exists, and most events in the movie do take place inside it, but to add it to the name of the movie is a pretty transparent attempt to make the movie seem more potentially interesting than it obviously is.

As in the comic books, Valerian is the name of the male hero.  The heroine’s name is Laureline.  Both of those roles are played by pretty much unknown actors, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delavingne.

The director is a Frenchman by the name of Luc Besson.  His most notable prior accomplishments are the 1997 sci-fi film, The Fifth Element, and the Scarlet Johannsen sci-fi movie from 2014 – Lucy.  Apparently Besson was a long-time fan of the comic book series but thought that it would be too difficult to bring to the big screen.  That opinion changed when he saw the success of, and the technology employed by, Avatar.

The two heroes in Valerian – a young man and woman – are partners in a sort of secret service of the future government.  There is a love interest between the two of them that is very badly handled.  The girl was OK but I was rooting the whole way for her to finally realize what a waste the guy was … and to dump him.  You can probably figure out which way that relationship ended.

There are a number of disjointed side plots in the movie that basically made no sense and did really nothing to further the end result.  One of those involved cameos by Ethan Hawke as a psycho pimp, and Rihanna as an alien shape shifter and cabaret dancer whose name is Bubble.

I guess one of the things I’m most disappointed in are the ratings from Rotten Tomatoes.  Frankly, even a 51 from the movie critics and a 57 from the movie going public are grossly overstated, and I’m usually not personally that far off from them when there is basically a consensus between the critics and the public.  It is disappointing to read comments from critics such as “There may be similarities to Avatar and Star Wars” (Ya think?) and “The world created by Besson in Valerian is all his own”.   As I’m fond of saying as well when it involves almost all things Trump … “Gimme a break”.

So in summary, was this the worst movie I have ever seen?  No.

Does it now merit a place in my all-time top 10 worst movies?  In the immortal words of literary giant, Sarah Palin … “You betcha.”

Official Movie Trailer