Sam Strange Remembers: VALERIAN AND THE PLANET OF A THOUSAND CITIES

Or something like that. Who can say.

Now that we’re in an era of annual new Star Wars films that will go on so long that all cool kids born today will eventually volunteer a jerk-off motion when you mention The Force Awakens, I think it’s more important than ever to show people there’s more than one way to do space movies. I mean, other than Star Trek (laughs uncontrollably).

But shit, things are crazy out there. Basically anything you do these days might be off the table in a month’s time, assuming nukes take out tables. Better make that shot count. So if I'm going to make a new space movie, I’m making the most space movie of all time.

Valerian and the State of Ten Thousand Lakes is that movie. You don’t even see Earth. It starts on an American space station as white dudes shake welcoming hands with other white dudes, showing brotherhood across humanity. Time goes on. Soon white dudes shake hands with non-white dudes. Whoa, even better! More time goes on. Next white dudes are shaking hands with white aliens. Time continues. Non-white aliens. More time. Aliens with bodies that aren’t even close to humanoid. Devils and shit. Bits of sentient gas. Eventually even Women. We come a long way over these opening credits.

But over time, the space station gets too heavy with all those fat alien asses and starts crashing into Earth. So President Rutger Hauer decides the best thing is to punt it the hell away and hope for the best. This works and finally gives history permission to overlook his presidency’s unfortunate early “raping Jennifer Jason Leigh and then ripping her apart with trucks” scandal.

It’s at this point we finally meet the film’s protagonists, space cops Valerian and Laureline. They are equal heroes, but while Valerian and the Planet of a Thousand Cities is clearly an acceptable movie title length, Valerian and Laureline and the Planet of a Thousand Cities is just silly.

Valerian is chilling on a digital beach when a wave from a dying alien wakes him from his slumber. See, far across the galaxy, there’s a planet full of concentrated Jonathan Rhys Meyerses. They frolic on a beach and collect pearls which they feed to a frog that poops them into highly lucrative energy drinks. One day, one of them dies and explodes into a wave of soul that interrupts Valerian’s nap, which is funny because that’s exactly what he was dreaming about anyway.

But then Laureline shows up and suddenly Valerian and the Pants of a Thousand Boners has bigger fish to fry. Valerian is something of a space Lothario, but he has a serious crush on Laureline, even though they're brother and sister and between the two of them there is entirely too much resting bitch face happening. Unfortunately, she is too dignified to become one of his many ladies, so she always stops things at playful bikini wrestling. Valerian can’t figure this out. It’s like the year 4058. French technological advances allow brothers and sisters to have sex all the time, yet she’s playing him like some 19th-century dowry-holder. So he reads some books and realizes the only way this is going to work is if he marries her. He doesn’t know what that is, but a different book tells him and he’s like “you gotta be fucking kidding me.”

So he starts down that path and can tell her inevitable no is really a yes, but only after an exciting movie happens. Luckily, they get an assignment on this planet where Trump voters go to shop in a desert using augmented reality because the REAL mall is filled with poor folk. Valerian VR stops a pearl deal between a John Goodman alien and a Jonathan Rhys Myers alien. He also nabs one of those energy-pooping frogs, thinking Laureline will think it’s cute. This backfires. She thinks it’s so cute that she ignores him all night to clean the little bastard up in a space microwave. Valerian’s like “but she never cleans ME up in the space microwave.”

They need to give the frog to command over at Valencia and the Planet of a Thousand Parenthoods. They meet up with Clive Owen and things are going well, but then the Jonathan Rhys Meyerses show up and shoot everyone with body condoms, abducting Clive Owen in the process because he has their poop frog. Luckily, Valerian puts a condom condom in his mouth before getting condomed and wakes up Laureline before giving chase. This is is the giant space station from the beginning of the film and he’s so badass that he busts through all of it like Jason Bourne chasing a dude through Chinatown apartment buildings.

Eventually he chases these guys into a part of the city where he can’t be tracked. It’s a whole different world in there, one where Lemmy from Motörhead is a pimp played by Ethan Hawke. Only certain kind of aliens can hang there, so Valerian seduces a shapeshifter played by Chris Brown into taking the form of one of these aliens and covering his whole body as a disguise. Every nook and cranny. Chris Brown won’t tell you this, but it’s the best day of his life.

Meanwhile, Laureline has to convince these three Wattos to sell her a squid that can show her Valerian’s last memory, thus locating him. I wanted this movie to be outer space as shit, so why waste an opportunity. Laureline must dive into water with Bill Nighy’s stunt double and steal a parasitic squid from a giant sea creature while also listening to advice from a future version of herself who has already done all this shit. Once she has the squid, she has to wear it on her head like a hat and tell it a bedtime story good enough to put it to asleep. The story has to be an original and must contain at least two characters with European accents not from the UK. The squid is out like a light before she can finish saying “Once upon a time, Valerian was asleep on a digital beach...”.

She goes to rescue Valerian, but gets captured and needs rescuing herself. Valerian is on the case, but it costs him one Chris Brown, who demands marriage from Valerian before he passes. Valerian knows this puts a damper on his other wedding plans, but he’s too much of a hero to refuse. Laureline takes a Buzzfeed quiz to know how to feel about it.

Eventually, Valerian and Laureline find the Jonathan Rhys Meyerses and realize they’re pretty chill. They just want to go home with their poop frog without getting killed by Clive Owen, but ugh, Clive Owen is such a dick about it. He’s just super grumpy about everything. Suddenly, Valerian gets a great idea. Since they’re technically on a ship, and Clive Owen is the head honcho, a marriage could distract him with duty, raise his spirits, and stick Laureline with Valerian all at the same time.

And thus, a love story for the cosmos concludes. Clive Owen cools the fuck down, and Valerian gets his girl. For a while. Laureline later decides she can probably do better than this twerp and hightails it to the Jonathan Rhys Meyers planet while Valerian finds a shapeshifter willing to constantly look like the Chris Brown shapeshifter. It took a while, but everyone is happy.

(three stars)

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