Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ★★★

Imagine if someone projected an entire decade’s worth of sci-fi space epics on the same screen, at the same time. Imagine you were in the audience for that event. Now imagine, for some insane reason, you decided to pre-game for the experience by eating an entire bag full of mushrooms that had been garnished with a fine layer of France’s best crystal meth. That, more or less, is what it feels like to watch Luc Besson’s delirious “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” an independently financed $200 million intergalactic adventure so high on its own supply that it makes makes “Guardians of the Galaxy” look like an Ozu film (and not even one of those later Ozu films that he jazzed up with color).

This is a movie with the density of a dying star, a movie that offers more things to see in every frame than you can find in some entire franchises. It’s a movie that features Herbie Hancock as a deep space defense minister, Rihanna as a shape-shifting alien stripper named Bubble, and Ethan Hawke as a guy named “Jolly the Pimp,” and it’s a movie so full of stuff that those three characters barely manage to stand out. Like everything else here, they are dissolved into the marrow of Besson’s delirious, hyper-active nonsense, congealing into a spectacle that feels like a necessary corrective to the sterility of modern blockbusters until it runs out of gas (or whatever the hell they use for fuel in the 28th Century) and gets sucked into a black hole of its own making, never to be heard from or thought of again.

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