It is my opinion that Luc Besson should be a household name. Granted, I am biased due to the fact that The Fifth Element is one of my all-time favorite films (we even named our dog after Leeloo). I’ll even admit that Besson doesn’t have anywhere near a perfect record under his belt, but still, I just love his movies. So, when Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets came out after many years in production, I was very, very excited.
If there is one thing that Besson does astoundingly well, it is aliens and high fashion, and this seemed to be the next big opportunity for him to do his thing. But was it? Let’s dive in and take a look at the 4K UHD release of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, released by Lionsgate Films.
While vacationing on a deserted beach in a holodeck, Valerian has a vision in a dream of an alien race in peril. Upon waking, he quickly pushes it to the back of his mind, as he has a mission to complete, and a partner to propose to… several times.
Agents Valerian and Lauraline are on a mission to disrupt a secret trade that is taking place in a marketplace in another dimension and to confiscate a Mul converter (an adorable little lizard dude). However, a small pearl pops up during this bust that reminds him of his dream – but what could that mean? The movie centers on this question, even if the main characters don’t exactly know it yet.
Valerian and Lauraline are quite the team. Valerian is an amorous type – constantly confessing his love to his partner – yet he is also extremely dedicated to his job and completing his mission, but in his own way (often with his own brand of humor). Think a young James Bond who’s severely feeling young love. Lauraline is quite the contrast; she is hardworking, dedicated, and no-nonsense. It’s obvious she has feelings for Valerian but she is not about to let it get in the way of her duty.
The two are successful in their mission to extract the Mul Converter, but instead of being done and sent on vacation, they uncover a series of troubling mysteries revolving around the aliens from Valerian’s dream, and before long, a General has gone missing, a lost alien species has surfaced, and Lauraline has been abducted – things go downhill, so to speak.
This film is, at its core, a series of increasingly outlandish situations where Valerian and Lauraline take turns saving each other from the bizarre and absurdities that inhabit this universe. You’ll see shapeshifters, a trio of all-knowing duck looking dudes, giant predatorial whale things, oh, and Ethan Hawke. Fans of The Fifth Element will likely feel right at home in this universe.
So, I’ve evoked The Fifth Element a couple times now. Does Valerian stack up to what is arguably Luc Besson’s greatest work to date? Probably not. While I do like this movie quite a bit, I did not overly like it after the first viewing. If you are not feeling the connection between Valerian and Lauraline, this movie sort of fails to wow. The good news is that if you aren’t feeling it immediately, it might get better for you – it definitely did for me. I think the trick is not taking it too seriously, and just having fun with it.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets took a notoriously long time to make, and cost a ton of money in the process. This is no surprise, considering the heavy reliance on CG. This 4K release looks beautiful on all fronts. There are probably more colors on display here than in any other 4K film I’ve seen yet, except for maybe Blue Planet 2 or Coco, and boy does it look good on the screen.
The one negative aspect to the visuals for this film is the art style. While it all feels very Besson to me, some parts feel almost directly lifted from Avatar, which some people will dislike.
The audio track, on the other hand, is arguably the best part of this package. Sporting a Dolby Atmos track, the surround was top notch. Throughout the film, various effects are consistently being heard all around you, in exciting and immersive ways. This is definitely one to show friends, with several scenes standing out as great examples of what the format can do.
- Valerian: Enhancement Mode (only available on the Blu-ray copy of the movie) – allows you to view a series of mini-featurettes on a variety of subjects during the movie. Each of these clips can be watched individually as “Enhancement Pods”
- Citizens of Imagination: Creating the Universe of Valerian – a production feature that focuses on the world building and special effects.
- Enhancement Pods
- The Art of Valerian
- Teaser Trailer
- Final Trailer
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Final Thoughts:
This film was a mixed bag for me at first. After my first viewing, I was a bit disappointed. This is most likely due to the fact that I wanted The Fifth Element all over again. However, after watching it a second time and just enjoying it for its own thing has proven to me that this is a worthwhile comedy adventure that features stunning visuals, exciting audio, and awesome hats (you may experience some nostalgia in this one)!
You can grab Valerian in all formats from Amazon or your favorite retailer.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgment or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.