Valerian‘s First Reviews Are All Over The Place

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has divided critics in a way quite similar to The Fifth Element.

STX Entertainment

What are Americans to make of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets? It’s reportedly the most expensive European movie ever made, and based on a comic book series that is extremely popular in certain Euro countries, but virtually unheard of on our shores. Yes, our fashion set is more than familiar with star Cara Delevingne and everyone knows Rihanna (who has a small but very interesting role as a shape-shifting exotic dancer), but the flick stands out in a summer filled with so many sequels from so many familiar franchises. Perhaps American’s most familiar reference point is The Fifth Element, the campy yet supremely stylish sci-fi hit Valerian‘s director Luc Besson made twenty years ago. It was ravaged by critics at the time, but has since grown into a cult favorite and fans have been hoping that Valerian may be something of a spiritual sequel.

Well, the first reviews are in ahead of the film’s debut on July 21st, and yes, it seems to be as campy and supremely stylish as The Fifth Element. Also like The Fifth Element, it has critics sharply divided with some critics heralding its mind blowing visuals, while others decrying it as one of the hottest cinematic messes of the year. In any event, critics sure do seem to be having a fun time writing up the film.

The basic takeaway is that the film is stunningly gorgeous, and packed with imaginative depictions of futuristic cityscape and alien life. If nothing else, the film certainly doesn’t look like anything else. The first thirty minutes, centered mostly on a chase scene, are enthralling if not classic. The other standout scene: Rihanna’s cabaret number (which might be this film’s answer to The Fifth Element‘s space opera scene). Though, even the most positive reviews aren’t quite sold on the plot and dialogue, and maybe it’s telling that Delevingne is getting better reviews than the titular star Dane DeHaan. Though, don’t take our word for it: here’s some of the main takeaways from the first batch of reviews.

The First Act is Really, Really Great

“The first 25 minutes of this movie should be mounted as an installation at the Louvre and played on an infinite loop. Only then can our planet know peace.” —Indiewire

“The good part: that first half hour. The film opens with a breathtaking montage scored to the slow build of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.'” —Entertainment Weekly

“This extended curtain raiser is a dynamite piece of action filmmaking.” —Forbes

The Visuals are Stunning and Rich if not Completely Mind Warping:

Valerian is at times so mind-meltingly beautiful and strange that I’m still not sure I didn’t just dream it all.” —Village Voice

“Imagine if someone projected an entire decade’s worth of sci-fi space epics on the same screen, at the same time. Imagine you were in the audience for that event. Now imagine, for some insane reason, you decided to pre-game for the experience by eating an entire bag full of mushrooms that had been garnished with a fine layer of France’s best crystal meth. That, more or less, is what it feels like to watch Luc Besson’s delirious Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” —Indiewire

Valerian boasts sights you won’t want to un-see. Cara Delevingne puts her head inside a jellyfish so she can spy on Dane DeHaan’s memories. A cute reptile creature thing poops a flurry of pearls and diamond earrings. Rihanna shape-shifts into Herbie Hancock.” —Metro

“Often, Valerian seems to treat itself as an excuse to show as many wild things to the audience as quickly as possible. And as long as it is showing you those wild things — and they are just as wild and creative and wondrous as any fan of The Fifth Element, Star Wars or Doctor Who could ask for — Valerian succeeds.” —Polygon

“The special effects and visual imagery are truly incredible, with every penny of that alleged $180-$210 million budget up on the screen for our pleasure. Do see this one in 3D as the format delivers this time around.” —Forbes

Cara Delevingne is Pretty Good In It:

” As played by British fashion model Cara Delevingne (downright wooden in last summer’s “Suicide Squad,” but a revelation here: sassy, sarcastic and spontaneous), Laureline holds true to one of Besson’s core beliefs — that nothing’s sexier than an assertive, empowered leading lady.” —Variety

“Despite her comparable inexperience, Delevingne fares better, the emotional center of a movie without much of an emotional center.” —The Playlist

“Cara Delevingne is an exciting, principled and intriguing breakout star.’ —Crave

Rihanna’s Scene is ‘Stupid’ but Fun (and Maybe the Best Part?):

“Rihanna shows up as a shape-shifting pole-dancer, in a scene that is neither sexy nor creepy, but rather adorably stupid.” —Village Voice

“The film’s most fun aside — the one involving Rihanna as Bubble, the most guileless sex slave in the entire galaxy — epitomizes Besson’s singular gift for threading the needle between spectacle and stupidity.” —Indiewire

“A nearly nonsensical tangent with Rihanna as a dancing shapeshifter might have almost nothing to do with the core story, but it’s a delightfully strange deviation.” —The Playlist

“Also, it’s a criminal underuse of Rihanna, whose comedic timing and enthusiasm for her role is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale mini-arc.” —Polygon

Then There’s Those Who Just Don’t Like It:

“The Razzies don’t need to wait until the end of the year to anoint a winner for 2017. The Golden Turkey Awards should be republished with a new cover. Euro-trash is back, while sci-fi will need to lick its wounds for a while.” —The Hollywood Reporter

“During the film’s intoxicating first 30 minutes, for example, I couldn’t decide whether what I was watching was brilliantly bonkers or total folly. Then, as the story went on, it came into sharper and sharper focus: Valerian is an epic mess.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Besson takes all that fun and color, along with a wild array of fantastic creatures, and deploys it in the service of a big, dopey story that remains resolutely uninvolving and often quite annoying.” —The Wrap

“It’s one thing to make a movie with a childlike sense of wonder. But “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is simply childish.” —

Related: New Valerian Trailer Explains What Cara Delevingne, Dane DeHaan, and Rihanna Are Doing Way Out in Space

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