Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 22-Nov-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Sci-Fi Action Featurette-Making Of-Creating the Universe of Valerian (60:00)
Featurette-Enhancement Pods (36:51)
Gallery-The Art of Valerian (3:38)
Teaser Trailer
Trailer-Final Trailer (1:44)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 136:57
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Luc Besson
Studio
Distributor
Entertainment One Starring Dane DeHaan
Cara Delevingne
Clive Owen
Sam Spruell
Rihanna
Pauline Hoarau
Sasha Luss
Ethan Hawke
Alain Chabat
Herbie Hancock
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Alexandre Desplat


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos 7.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     During the opening credits and to the sound of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, the scene is set: from humble beginnings in 1975, in 200 years the International Space Station in orbit around the Earth had grown into a massive space colony named Alpha with a multitude of Human and Alien life forms living together in colonies. However, Alpha has become so huge that it had become a threat to Earth’s gravity and so the decision was made to send it on a voyage into a distant galaxy.

     Fast forward another 400 years to the idyllic planet of Mul, inhabited by the peaceful Pearl people, at one with their world and their environment. On Mul is Empress Aloi (Pauline Hoarau) and her daughter Princess Lihio-Minaa (Sasha Luss) who is the keeper of the Converters, small creatures who can swallow an item such as a pearl or a diamond and instantly reproduce a large number of them. However the peaceful existence of Mul is shattered when a battle occurs in space above the planet and damaged craft in flames start to rain down onto Mul. Some of the Pearls manage to take shelter in one damaged spacecraft but many, including Lihio-Minaa, are killed and Mul destroyed.

     Thirty years after the destruction of Mul, Federation Agents Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are ordered to the Planet Kirian “Big Market”, a market existing in another dimension, to retrieve for the Federation the last existing Converter. They succeed with some difficulty and take it to Alpha, which has now grown so big it is a city of a thousand individual sections and environments. Alpha is administered by a council made up of the various races, its security in the hands of Supreme Commander Filitt (Clive Owen). Alpha is, however, under threat of destruction; an impenetrable radioactive zone deep within the station is expanding and cannot be contained. Filitt gains the approval of the Council to take extreme measures but before they can be activated his headquarters is attacked by Pearls and Filitt captured. With command now passing to General Okto-Bar (Sam Spruell), more troops are summonsed. Valerian and Laureline race against time, through various sections of Alpha, facing diverse threats and creatures, in an attempt to save the station and to discover just what really happened on Mul all those years before.

     Valerian is the work of director / screenwriter Luc Besson and is based on the French comic Valerian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres. Besson has directed some fabulous, quirky character driven action films such as La Femme Nikita (1990) or Leon: The Professional (1994) which are among my favourite films. He always had style but fell in love with spectacle and his use of CGI in subsequent projects result in films that look astounding but relegate the human actors to almost cyphers amid the extravagance; even Gary Oldman, who can do villains with the best of them, struggled in The Fifth Element (1997). And Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets makes The Fifth Element look like an exercise in restraint.

     In Valerian there are certainly stunning visuals, including the environment of Mul, the “Big Market” on Kirian or the various sections of Alpha, but almost nothing is real and practically every shot involves CGI and motion capture. Some sequences are quite clever, the best involving a dance performance by a shapeshifter played by Rihanna which is a lot of fun, but others, such as an extended underwater sequence with monsters seem just an excuse to add some extra creatures. Indeed, the middle third of the film feels episodic as first Laureline saves Valerian and then Valerian saves Laureline; these sections don’t advance the plot but do show off a few more CGI creations and environments. Indeed, in many places vignettes, creatures and plot points are thrust at the viewer without a lot of coherence. There are some over the top cameos by Ethan Hawke and Alain Chabat while Rutger Hauer and Herbie Hancock get a brief look-in and John Goodman provides a voice. Valerian is also a romance with the developing relationship and byplay between Valerian and Laureline but neither Dane DeHaan nor Cara Delevingne have the acting presence to project their characters above the CGI spectacle, although Delevingne does have her moments and probably does best.

     Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets does have themes in common with The Fifth Element, such as love as the saving element, which is not a surprise as it seems that Besson was influenced by the Valerian comics when writing that film. Also like The Fifth Element ,Valerian is spectacle before acting, characterisation, sense or plot but what spectacle!! Some of the worlds are stunning and the CGI realisation of the Alien species’ is wonderful, with a quirky sense of humour. But, for such a CGI heavy film, some of the backgrounds on Alpha are somewhat flaky and a couple of the creatures, including the underwater monsters or the Magaptor, are so obviously CGI that they feel more like denizens from a video game.

     Nevertheless, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a sci-fi CGI extravaganza which has almost unimaginable worlds, jaw-dropping visuals and more alien species and creatures than even George Lucas could have contemplated. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets cost over $US200 million and made less than that at the box office. CGI can be expensive!

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Colours are vibrant, the Planet Mul especially beautiful with its yellow sand, deep blue sea and sky and the luminous pearl of the skins of the inhabitants, while the more dusty desert of Kirian also impresses. The various Alien species that arrive on Alpha look magnificent with colours and highlights and strong detail. Alpha itself is a much darker place with a predominately grey or brown palate, but does brighten up with the lavish costumes within the Paradise Alley segment. However, as noted, some of the darker CGI backgrounds on Alpha are not as impressive. Elsewhere, detail is sharp, blacks and shadow detail excellent, contrast and brightness consistent. Marks and artefacts are not present.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The principal audio is English Atmos 7.1 which defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, optimised for late night listening, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio utilising a female voice.

     I am not set up for 7.1 audio but even in 5.1 this audio is enveloping with the rocket engines, shots and explosions, crowd noise around the sound stage and the destruction and impacts of the space battle above Mul rock the room, although in the latter segment the choice was made to superimpose the music over the top of the effects. There is a substantial amount of panning featuring engines during a flying chase as well as the creatures in the underwater sequence. Away from the action there are voices, an ambient hum and the music. The subwoofer was active adding rumble to the engines, explosions and the score. The dialogue was clear and easy to understand, except for Alex, Valerian’s ship’s computer. This may be a result of not having a 7.1 set-up but Alex’s voice was very soft and it was almost impossible to hear what she was saying; as she provides a fair bit of exposition about Alpha in one scene if you don’t have a 7.1 set up you will need to turn on the subtitles.

     The original score is by Alexandre Desplat. He has an extensive resume of 176 credits on the IMDb in various genres and has been nominated for Oscars nine times, winning for The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and The Shape of Water (2017); his score for Valerian is bombastic, which suits the film.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Citizens of Imagination: Creating the Universe of Valerian (60:00)

     An extensive “Making of” in five parts which shows a great deal of the on-set blue screen sections and motion capture, the comic book, sketches, concept drawings, before and after CGI segments, some film clips and comments by those involved, although mostly these comments are their voice over the sequences and sketches. Those commenting include director / screenwriter Luc Besson, producer Virginie Besson-Silla, the creators of the Valerian comic Pierre Christin, Jean-Claude Mezieres, cast Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Ethan Hawke, Rihanna, Laurent Ferraro, Tonio Descanville, Doug Rand, Alain Cabat and, in the section on visual effects, a whole range of people from various effects production houses including Weta, ILM and Rodeo. Matters covered include adapting the comics, creating the aliens, shapeshifting, the massive space station, motion capture, the physical training required, wire work and the stunts, the various worlds, the relationship between the two main characters and the actors who play them. This is a decent feature, showing the massive amount of CGI work that went into the film. Each section can be selected individually or there is a ‘Play All” option. The segments are:

.

Enhancement Pods (36:51)

     These are short EPK featurettes that focus on specific characters, creatures, aliens, the space station, motion capture using film clips, blue-screen sections and comments by various cast and crew. They can be selected individually or there is a “Play all” option. The segments are:

The Alpha Archives

     In three sections:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A Blu-ray of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is almost identical to our release. It adds Spanish subtitles while the “Enhancement Pods” are accessed by icon as the film plays. I do like the way they are easily accessible in our release.

Summary

     The Fifth Element had 188 special effects shots, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has 2734. This tells you all you need to know about the film. If you enjoy spectacular worlds, vivid imagination and weird Alien creatures without technical limitation, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets may be just the ticket.

     The video and audio are excellent, the extras are extensive and genuine.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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Gorgeous in 4k -