Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ★★★½

Similar to Avatar and Jupiter Ascending in that the world building exceeds the characters and even more so the actors. It is enough of a creatively stimulating world to make the package exciting, especially the way Besson introduces the world before its characters. Regardless of plot and story themes I just want to tag along to explore the world. Perhaps it is due to the adapted material, but Besson managed to create the same excitement for the world outside the story in The Fifth Element by visiting locations where these characters' plot is just a passing moment.

Unlike Besson's best movies the weakest part here is the casting. There's no Jean Reno, Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, or Scarlett Johansson to lend some star power to the sometimes shaky script. Cara Delevingne may be close to a star performance but the lack of a spark between her and Dane DeHaan kills almost every scene they have together. There are hints of a balanced dynamic which would ease the half-century old social awareness nicely into the future in the tag-team structure of the story where the leads take turns leading the action. Had that not been overshadowed by the uncomfortably awful bits this could have been so much better.