Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a complex film in which a diminutive gimp and Cara Delevingne shoot their way through a massive space station to find the greatest artist of all time – Rihanna.
Played by a shapeshifting, gelatinous stripper squid, the popular sound maker is integral to the film’s plot, despite only being in it for fifteen minutes and spending the majority of that time shaking her twat. In this sprawling sci-fi adventure, she is the key to solving an intergalactic mystery, involving genocide, government corruption and an armadillo that shits magic marbles.
The film starts promisingly with a montage of humanity meeting various species of alien, while David Bowie’s A Space Odyssey plays over the top, but the story doesn’t properly get going until Rihanna shows up an hour later. The diminutive gimp is half way through a drawn out mission to rescue Delevingne, having only just been rescued by her himself, when the pop sensation tries to entertain him with a pole dance for the ages. As she slid up and down the metallic fixture, drenching it in the process, it became quite clear that this film could not work without her. Then her hair changed from black to yellow and I spontaneously broke into applause.
Rihanna’s presence in this film is a statement of creative intent from director Luc Besson. For a piece of pure sci-fi escapism, based on the French comic book series that supposedly inspired George Lucas to make Star Wars, it took serious courage and innovative thinking to cast a pop star who almost definitely does not appeal to the target audience. It means that a whole new demographic can be drawn in, filling cinemas with lovers of proper songs that only occasionally use actual words.
To accommodate this new crowd, Valerian cleverly pieces together an unintelligible narrative that goes off on numerous tangents, mirroring the attention span of the viewer. I must admit, when the diminutive gimp charged through the walls of the space station, passing various, vibrantly coloured alien microcosms, even my mind started to drift onto other things, like how this film’s budget could have been used to cure polio.
But my attention was firmly on the screen when Rihanna contemplated running away from her neon jacket-wearing pimp (Ethan Hawke). It’s a truly captivating performance that overshadows the entire film, almost to the extent that you can ignore the soap opera dialogue, the 20th century treatment of gender and race, and the fact that you constantly have no idea what’s going on. After all, who needs it to make sense or show any regard for fans of the source material when it’s got Rihanna queefing in your face? In 3D.