• by Wes Singleton

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, B-

Rated PG-13, 137 minutes

The new sci-fi action film "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" is more fun than you might expect, with its main calling card its stunning visuals, which wouldn't be a surprise if you've seen the trailers for the film or if you're familiar with its acclaimed director, Luc Besson, of such films as "The Fifth Element" or more recently, "Lucy." The uneven story has some rough patches and goes on a little too long, but it has enough going for it to keep you engaged.

In the 28th century, special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) work together to maintain order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the minister of defense, the duo embarks on a mission to Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis where diverse species gather to share knowledge and culture. When a dark force threatens the peaceful city, Valerian and Laureline must race against time to identify the menace that also jeopardizes the future of the universe.

"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" directed and written by Besson and is based on a French science fiction comic series by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres and is an entertaining and colorful romp through space and time. Though its source material has been around for 50 years, Besson's original stamp bears resemblance to his 1997 hit, the Bruce Willis film "The Fifth Element," with striking, often unusual imagery, nice action set pieces and an underdeveloped story.

Besson has no problem engaging the senses from the first frame, taking us on a colorful, unique ride filled with so many odd creatures, places and objects that it soon becomes sensory overload, occasionally overwhelming a story that goes into too many directions and goes on too long. DeHaan and Delevingne are appealing leads yet the script doesn't give them much chemistry, though Besson has lined up an eclectic cast for sure - where else are you going to find Ethan Hawke, Rihanna, Clive Owen and Herbie Hancock (yes, that Herbie Hancock, jazz legend) all on the same bill?

The middle act especially sags when DeHaan's character gets stranded and befriends Rihanna's character, a shape shifting immigrant creature named Bubble longing for a better home, but who also happens to be a fantastic entertainer, not exactly a big stretch. Besson becomes so concerned with all the striking visual images that he forgets he has a couple of bland leading characters whose relationship is never fully explored.

"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" is strange fun and peppered with some exciting action set pieces, a few of which make you feel like you're in the middle of a video game. Much like an exciting video game, you get caught up in the spectacle and forget about everything else.

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