Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets arrived in cinemas during the summer and sadly didn’t quite hold up to the hype that had been built. This happens a lot with tent-pole titles, especially those directed by an established director, and can kill a film before its even reached the screen. It happened with the Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending, and this year it sadly happened with Luc Besson’s Valerian.
It may have failed to set the box-office alight, but Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has all the ingredients to be a success on home entertainment platforms. It’s a science-fiction action adventure – a genre that tends to convert well at home – it’s directed by Luc Besson and had mixed reviews, meaning that whilst many didn’t want to risk a wasted trip to the cinema, they are still curious to see just what the film is like. The biggest bow in the armoury though has to be that Valerian is also available in stunning new home entertainment format – 4K UHD Blu-ray.
All the reviews for Valerian at the theatrical level seemed to say the same thing – the plot is a little ropey, but the film looks incredible – now it looks, and sounds, even more incredible thanks to the UHD format. Up until now, the UHDs that have been released, on the whole, haven’t really challenged the new hardware. Most films have been the kind that have a limited colour palette; the blacks really pop, but the rest hasn’t been that spectacular. Valerian however, is so visually rich with colours that you’ll definitely be giving your 4K tech a workout with this one.
From the moment we touch down onto Mül the eyes are assaulted with every colour imaginable. The Pearl race are iridescent and shimmery, their land is vast blue seas, white sands (which are so detailed in 4K you can make out single grains of sand) and green palms. But it’s not just these scenes that make the 4K a feast for the eyes, the space-set moments are just as entertaining, the stars popping out of the black sky and shining like diamonds. There is also a moment wherein Laureline locates a lost Valerian; at theatres the landscape they were standing on looked like grey stone, but now with the 4K upgrade you see that the ground is actually alive with colour and the whole cavern is glittering. This really is a visually beautiful film. The colours are so bright and vibrant that you’ll be so distracted by them, you won’t have time to pick up on the nonsensical plot.
In terms of sound, the Dolby Atmos track is brilliant. The most noticeable highlight occurs during the opening sequence. Set to David Bowie’s brilliant Space Odyssey, we watch this universe’s space race unfold from 1975 all the way up to 400 years in the future. The scene opens in 1975, the picture 4:3, the audio stereo, and then as we jump to 2020 the screen expands and the Atmos suddenly kicks in. It’s super subtle (and historically accurate), but a super effective way of highlighting the change in time.
Unfortunately, the story itself doesn’t quite live up to the hard work that has gone into production. Besson has clearly focused on world building rather than the plot, and the film obviously suffers for it. The casting seems off; whilst Dane DeHann is wonderful in indie dramas, space operas just don’t appear to be his thing. So much so, that he spends most of the movie doing his best impression of Keanu Reeves circa 1990. Cara Delevingne however, is surprisingly good as Laureline, but she doesn’t have a great deal to do. Although it is much more than just standing still and gyrating her hips (which is all she managed in last year’s Suicide Squad). The stars of the show though are Rihanna as shape-shifting exotic dancer Bubble, and Ethan Hawke as her pimp, Jolly. Ri-Ri sizzles during her dance sequence in a Salma Hayek in From Dusk till Dawn kind of way, and despite his limited screen time, Hawke manages to add in a lot of subtleties to his role. One tiny line uttered – ‘I don’t know how much longer I can do this’ points to him being not as Jolly as his name suggests.
If you are after a 4K UHD disc that will enable you to show off your new technology to your friends, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets comes highly recommended. A visual viewing experience like no other, be prepared to see the world in much more than just technicolour.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is out on 4K UHD Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital Download now.