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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a sci-fi/action movie based on French comics and directed by Luc Besson. There's plenty of fantasy violence, with futuristic guns, shooting, and fighting, but virtually no blood. An alien character is strapped to a chair and questioned (possibly tortured). The main characters eventually kiss, and one spends the movie asking the other to marry him. There's a red-light district with flirty characters and a woman doing a sexy dance involving a stripper pole. Language includes one possible use of "s--t" (it's partly obscured by noise) and uses of "ass" and "damn." Though the movie is very long and quite silly, it's also bright and dazzling and fun, with messages about courage, teamwork, environmentalism, and helping the less fortunate. And the main female character (Cara Delevingne) constantly challenges her position as the male's sidekick.
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What's the story?
In VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, it's the 28th century, and agent Valerian (Dane DeHaan) has a strange vision about an alien race. He and his intrepid partner, Laureline (Cara Delevingne), are sent on a mission to a huge, interdimensional black market to retrieve a miraculous little creature that can multiply matter with its body. Then, returning to Alpha (an interconnected series of ships populated by thousands of races, aka "the city of a thousand planets"), the heroes discover that it's under attack, with a strange radioactive zone spreading from its core. Eventually, Valerian and Laureline discover that there's a connection between Valerian's vision and the threat. Worse, they discover that there's a huge cover-up -- and it goes all the way to the top.
Is it any good?
Expensive and impressively, colorfully designed, this sci-fi/action movie is frequently silly and not always very smart, but it has a joyous exuberance and a sheer, dizzy love of the genre. Written and directed by Luc Besson and based on French comics by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets feels directly inspired by Star Wars, as if it were riding a wave of enthusiasm spurred by that film's 1977 release. It's an homage that might have been conceived by Roger Corman, by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus at Cannon Films, or even by a kid in the backyard. The only differences are that it has a $200 million budget, and it's way, way too long.
Some of the movie's images -- such as an immense marketplace in an alternate dimension, or the complex structure of Alpha itself -- are absolutely breathtaking. And Besson's action and chase sequences are bright and snappy, with touches of swaggering humor (helped by Alexandre Desplat's full-blooded, jaunty score). Model-turned-actress Delevingne isn't a great thespian, but her presence has a Barbarella/Galaxina quality, with a bit of Bond girl thrown in. Meanwhile, while DeHaan is fine in introspective indies, he doesn't seem quite right as a Han Solo space-cowboy type. But most quibbles of this kind are easily forgiven, thanks to the movie's overall cheery spirit and positive vibe.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets's violence. Does the fact that it's largely bloodless -- and that it uses futuristic technology -- make it less intense? Why or why not? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
Did you notice any examples of kindness, sharing, and helping others in the movie? Do you think the movie promotes compassion?
Laureline frequently challenges her position as Valerian's sidekick. Do you agree with her? How would you describe her role? How does she compare to other female characters you've seen in sci-fi/adventure movies?
How does science fiction help tell stories about who we are and what's going on now?
- In theaters: July 21, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: November 21, 2017
- Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen
- Director: Luc Besson
- Studios: STX Entertainment, Lionsgate
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Space and Aliens
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 137 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language
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