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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets (Blu-ray)
Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // PG-13 // November 21, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $19.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted December 10, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Blu-ray Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a futuristic sci-fi adventure from the creator of Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, legendary filmmaker Luc Besson. Based on the visionary comics created by Pierre Christin (writer) and Jean-Claude Mézières (artist) which were beloved by Besson as a child, Valerian is an exciting motion-picture experience. Produced by Luc Besson, Virginie Besson-Silla (Lucy, The Lady), and Camille Courau (The Transporter Refueled, Transporter 3), the film is a passion project from its writer-director.

There is a city of a thousand planets in which the whole galaxy is interconnected: Alpha. This fantastic city has a station in which various alien creatures and humans alike meet, mix, and mingle with one another as they traverse the universe. In the opening sequence (which is also one of the film's best sequences), dozens of great fantastic creatures meet and great one another. Despite countless cultures, languages, and species the aliens and humans come together to work towards peace and unity. It's a beautiful opening to the film... though not all of the alien creatures from Alpha are on the same page with one another.

Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne), intergalactic cops who are working across the universe on a number of adventurous missions, are the central protagonists and heroes of the story. The two have a camaraderie with each other and are romantically involved with each other. They work together on missions requiring their intergalactic heroics.

Though Laureline seems to feel Valerian's feelings might be less sincere at the start of the film, the young duo riffs off one another as they work together on their missions and continue their romantic tango. The pair have clear affection for one another as they work in strikingly clear unison.  Throughout the film, the developing friendship and romance of the couple is a big element of the storyline.

During an important mission in which Valerian and Laureline are to retrieve some artifacts while dealing with an unscrupulous alien, Igon Siruss (voiced by John Goodman),  the characters enter a virtual-city in which Valerine is capable of falling through buildings, worlds, and locations all interconnected digitally. This sequence, reminiscent of a virtual realty world, is an exciting and fascinating take on the way virtual reality may impact the future of technology.

The main storyline revolves around a traditionally peaceful group of aliens who form a tribe on the planet Mul. When their planet becomes destroyed, leaving most of their species extinct, the remaining survivors of the planet Mul come into contact with the spaceship that Valerian and Laureline are on and seek help from the pair as their last hope.

A nefarious plot from Commander Arun Filitt (Clive Owen) slowly becomes unearthed as Valerian and Laureline must help Princess Liho-Minaa and the tribe's peoples to survive. A strange, otherworldly, and exciting adventure unfolds as Valerian and Laureline traverse the universe on their newfound mission: to help these aliens from the planet Mul and uncover the reason behind their planet's destruction.

Along the strange space-age journey the characters meet a number of fantastic creatures, alien species (including the wacky Boulan's), and Valerian takes a strange trip down Paradise Alley: a sci-fi red-light district containing aliens and humans alike where Valerian stumbles upon Jolly the Pimp (Ethan Hawke), who introduces Valerian to the performer Bubble (Rihanna), a alien creature capable of transforming her appearance instantly - whether that be by costumes (as is done during a dance sequence featuring Rihanna) or by appearing as multiple people or aliens creatures. Bubble ends up helping Valerian on his mission when he must take a detour to face down the Boulan tribe after they kidnap Laureline.

'The scope, scale, and magnitude of the production is felt on every level and in every frame. The film has a huge array of alien creatures and fantastic worlds. The detailed design work that went into creating these characters and backdrops is phenomenal. These marvelous special effects, which were supervised by special effects supervisors Philippe Hubin and Jean-Christophe Magnaud, are breathtaking and a huge leap forward for international production houses.

The film has an outstanding production team. Not only are the visual effects grandiose and exciting so are the other design elements. The costumes designed by Olivier Bériot are so elegant, exciting, and original that they almost feel like another "special effect" at times. Besson's longtime cinematic collaborator Thierry Arbogast (The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional, La Femme Nikita) delivers exceptional cinematography which is both visually spectacular and engrossing.

The production design work done by Hugues Tissandier (The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, Lucy, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec) brings to life the world of Alpha and the city of a thousand planets with rich layers and tapestry. The music score composed by Alexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water, Birth, Coco Before Channel, Moonrise Kingdom) is something of a departure and a change of pace from the scores Eric Serra would do for Besson films, but as Desplat is also a master composer he does an excellent job with the music. It strikes a chord between whimsy and excitement with equal measure.

More than anything else, Valerian is an undeniable testament to the extraordinary vision of filmmaker Luc Besson. His visionary approach as a director carries the film through amazing heights. The action sequences he has orchestrated throughout the production are amongst the best to seen in any film released this year. It fascinates how the film manages to be such an elevated pop-culture sugar rush while simultaneously working as a film with a distinctive, independent vision that could only have come from a true creative genius like Besson. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is an exciting mixture of adventure, action, comedy, and sci-fi which will leave cinema buffs feeling enthusiastic about the future of tent-pole cinema.

The Blu-ray:


Video:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. The film has a robust presentation with impressive colors, depth, and detail. A near-perfect transfer for Blu-ray with stunning clarity and quality. Depth and color are vivid throughout the presentation. No issues with banding or other detrimental video quality issues are to be found. This is a crisp and impressive quality transfer which will leave fans of the film pleased.

The only area in which this release might disappoint is the lack of the 3D presentation of the film. 3D fans should consider it a must-see in 3D but will need to import a release from the UK, Germany, France, or another country carrying the 3D edition if they want to own it in the format.

For those who only need the standard Blu-ray disc, the U.S. release is of exceptional quality and won't disappoint.

Audio:

The release includes English Dolby Atmos surround sound (which will default to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless for those without Dolby Atmos setups).

The aural immersion is impressive. This is an engaging sound design which is fully utilized from beginning to end with excellent soundstage for sound effects, the score by Alexandre Desplat, and the variety of songs featured throughout (like the great tune from the equally great David Bowie). This is an excellent sound mix which makes good use of the surround speakers. The sound design works wonders for the film's overall experience.

Optional Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound and English 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo audio (optimized for late-night viewing) are also provided. English descriptive audio is also available.

Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing) and Spanish.


Extras:

Please Note:
This release is a combo pack release including a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UV Code

Valerian Enhancement Mode: Enhancement pods play throughout the movie experience as an optional viewing mode. Whenever a prompt appears, it can take you into a behind the scenes featurette video pod.

Citizens of Imagination: Creating the World of Valerian (HD, 59 min.) is a behind the scenes documentary about the production of the film. Featuring interviews with the cast, crew, and writer/director Luc Besson, this behind the scenes look at the film's production covers many different aspects of the film's production and development.

Paper / Ink / Flesh / Blood Origins (6 min.) details the origins of the comic book, Luc Besson's interest in the story, the process of adapting the material for film, and the start of the project.

To Alpha and Beyond: Production and Stunts (11 min.) covers the production design and stunt work done on the film for the elaborate action sequences.

It Takes Two: Valerian and Laureline's Partnership (7 min.) discusses the characters of Valerian and Laureline and the two lead actors who perform them: Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. The actors demonstrate their camaraderie and playfulness on the set during production.

Denizens of the Galaxy: Humans and Aliens (15 min.) discusses the variety of alien creatures featured throughout the film and the human characters that take part in the Valerian universe.

The Final Element: Visual Effects (21 min.) discusses the elaborate special effects, production work, including design efforts (sketches, drawings, etc.) for the variety of characters featured throughout the film.

Enhancement Pods (HD, 36 min.) can be selected as a 'Play All' or as individual segments as detailed below:

Alpha Introduction (3 min.) discusses the opening sequence, on Alpha, where a variety of aliens and humans from across the galaxy come together and greet one another at a universal space station.

Princess Liho-Minaa (2 min.) is about the character from the alien tribe which is featured prominently in the film. Features interview with the actress who portrayed the character.

Empress Aloi (HD, 2 min.) features a discussion on the empress character Aloi and her part in the film. Featuring an interview with the actress in this role.

Destruction of Mul (2 min.) focuses on the sequence in which the world of Mul is destroyed in the film and the elaborate special effects work done for that scene.

Igon Siruss (2 min.) focuses on the otherworldly alien creature who is voiced by John Goodman (and which is a character somewhat similar to Jabba the Hut). Focuses on the sequence in the film featuring Igon and the special effects work that went into bringing the sequence to life.

Motion capture cameras (4 min.) features the special effects supervisor on the film discussing how they used motion capture cameras to bring to life the alien creatures and give them an authentic way of moving and walking.

Kris Wu Set Tour (3 min.) features the actor Kris Wu (who played a general in the film) visiting some of the behind-the-scenes locations of the film's production facilities.

Melo the Converter (4 min.) features the special effects supervisors discussing the adorable alien creature called Melo and how he was designed for the film.

Pearl Guns (2 min.) discusses the special effects work and behind-the-scenes efforts done on the sequence featuring the alien tribe using pearl guns as weapons on board the spaceship.

Kris Wu 4D Scan (3 min.) features actor Kris Wu taking a stop to look at one of the production offices involved in making the special effects (and he even gets to see some of the effects work being done on his own character in the film).

Paradise Alley (3 min.) features a discussion on the special effects, costumes, and actresses who appear in the Paradise Alley sequence (which is similar to a sci-fi futuristic red light district).

Boulan Bathor Emperor (3 min.) focuses on the head emperor of the alien tribe featured during the film's last act and his character design. As well as how that huge action sequence was made involving the Boulan emperor.

Emperor Haban-Limai (3 min.) focuses on the emperor character and features interview with the actress portraying her. Discusses how the tribe characters were all portrayed by models to help with the seamless CGI work in how these characters move.

K-Trons (2 min.) focuses on the supporting guard characters (TRON like sci-fi warriors who are featured in a few key sequences) and about the actors who used motion capture to portray these sci-fi characters.

The Art of Valerian is a click-through look at many of the art photos and designs used for production of the film. Featuring the alien creatures, alpha, Boulan bathors, the characters (Valerian and Laureline), K-Tron, pearls (the characters of Mul - their tribe), and Planet Kirian:  Big Market.

Each art gallery features a variety of sketches and full-color art designs of the various creatures, planets, locations, and aesthetics which exist within the world of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Teaser Trailer (2 min.)

Final Theatrical Trailer (2 min.)

Final Thoughts:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is an exciting, remarkable, and surprising experience from start to finish. For anyone who has ever enjoyed a fun adventure film, Luc Besson proves once again why he remains as one of cinema's most ambitious and relevant filmmakers. With outstanding special effects, design work, and a fun style which permeates every sequence, Valerian is one of the year's best and most original big-budget spectacles.

For any film lover who ever enjoyed Besson's The Fifth Element or Leon: The Professional, Valerian is another treat which should be considered a must-see cinematic event.

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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