Is Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets this summer's most divisive blockbuster?

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Valerian… Luc Besson’s new sc-fi has split critics down the middle – Credit: EuropaCorp

The quick answer to the headline here is, yes, unless something else comes along to top it, Luc Besson’s new sci-fi bonanza is most likely the most divisive blockbuster of the summer.

The ‘Fifth Element’ director has returned to space for a sprawling, eye-popping space opera which has been dubbed ‘Star Wars on crystal meth‘.

Starring ‘Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan and British model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne, it’s based on the French series of sci-fi comic books Valérian and Laureline (played by DeHaan and Delevingne), first published in the late 60s and winding up in 2010 after selling millions of copies and being translated into dozens of languages.

(Credit: EuropaCorp)

Also featuring a bizarrely matched cast including Clive Owen, Rihanna, John Goodman, Rutger Hauer and jazz legend Herbie Hancock, it’s fair to say it’s got critics split.

Where We Live Entertainment‘s Scott Menzel has called it ‘visual perfection’, Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter has said that ‘The Razzies don’t need to wait until the end of the year to anoint a winner for 2017’.

Bilge Ebiri in The Village Voice, meanwhile, adds: “Valerian is at times so mind-meltingly beautiful and strange that I’m still not sure I didn’t just dream it all.”

But countering it, Chris Nashawaty in Entertainment Weekly has called it ‘an epic mess‘.

Then again, Peter Debruge in Variety has said it’s ‘an expansive, expensive adventure whose creativity outweighs its more uneven elements’.

Indeed, some even love the first half and hate the second half, Peter Sciretta on /Film saying it veers from ‘unpredictable and bonkers insane‘ to ‘far less exciting’ come the climax.

You get the picture.

(Credit: EuropaCorp)

But the expensive bit is certainly right – the movie has cost Besson’s own studio EuropaCorp a solid €197 million (£173 million) to make, the most ever spent on a French movie, with talk earlier this year suggesting that if it failed at the box office, it could bring down the entire company.

To add to EuropaCorp’s troubles, it posted a loss of €119.9 million only last month thanks to a string of failures over the past year, including Jessica Chastain thriller ‘Miss Sloane’, Naomi Watts horror movie ‘Shut In’, fantasy bomb ‘The Warriors Gate’ and the disastrous Kevin Spacey-voicing-a-cat movie ‘Nine Lives’.

Besson has since said that thanks to various deals with other production companies, 70% of the movie’s budget has been covered already, but if it fails to do enough business, it could spell disaster for one of Europe’s biggest independent studios.

‘Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets’ is due out on August 2 across the UK.

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