Director Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” arrives in theaters this weekend, and its apparent likeness to "Star Wars" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" will likely drive some families to see it. It has a hot-shot hero, Valerian (Dane Dehaan), his strong-willed partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne), cute creatures, weird creatures, spaceships, robots, and different worlds — but this sci-fi extravaganza is a hot mess almost from start to finish.
It begins in 1975, when the space station Alpha first welcomes astronauts from different nations and eventually, as we're shown through a montage, grows into a sprawling metal planet full of different life forms of almost all diversities. The space station grows so large it must be jettisoned into space to avoid a collision with earth, and the audience is taken hundreds of years into the future, where Valerian, a major for the human military, is sent on a mission to retrieve a rare, one-of-a-kind object from a Jabba the Hut-type smuggler. From there, it's one adventure after another as Valerian and Laureline encounter different species and threats, all leading to a cover-up of one planet's genocide.
Here's what parents should know.
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is 2 hours and 17 minutes long, which might be too long for some kids. It is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive content and language.
Visually, the movie is at times stunning with impressive visual effects in 3D. The different aliens depicted are interesting, even if they are weird at times, and seem like a mashup of different characters seen in other sci-fi movies. There is a lot of action, but the plot at times jumps from one idea to another, which might be confusing for some kids. There's also a fairly preachy message about illegal aliens and environmentalism that some parents might not appreciate, although it fizzles out before it gets too heavy handed.
There is fantasy violence, with fighting and shooting but no gore. It is implied one character is tortured by being strapped to a chair and another is mauled by a creature, but no blood is shown. There is some mild profanity throughout, and Valerian visits a red-light district in one scene, where female aliens solicit him for a date and another (played by Rihanna) performs a dance around a stripper pole.
However, the film has some positive messages about teamwork and helping the less fortunate.
If you're looking for nothing more than a mindless afternoon at the movies, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” will do the trick. At times it's fun and funny, but mostly, it suffers from too little plot development and cheesy dialogue.
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” opens in theaters July 21.