Action Adventure

'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets' 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review: An eye-popping, out-of-this-world, sci-fi trip

December 5, 2017Ben MK

This year marks the 20th anniversary of The Fifth Element, a cult classic that still stands as one of Luc Besson's most laudable achievements, and the one moviegoers are most likely to cite when praising his creativity as a filmmaker. Now, the writer/director is back with another big, bold and wildly imaginative sci-fi spectacle. This time, it's an adaptation of "Valérian and Laureline," a French comic book series first published 50 years ago, notable for its far-reaching influence on the sci-fi genre.

In this film version, Dane DeHaan plays Major Valerian, the by-the-book half of the comics' titular duo. Starring alongside Cara Delevingne as Valerian's more compassionate, hot-tempered female counterpart, Sergeant Laureline, DeHaan dons a powered spacesuit and pilots a spaceship called The Intruder to Alpha, the galaxy's largest space station, otherwise known as The City of a Thousand Planets. But when Valerian finds himself in a tough spot, he calls upon Laureline, who's every bit the quick-thinker and brave warrior that he is, and then some.

Visually, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a masterpiece teeming with some of the most stunning extraterrestrial depictions this side of Star Wars, the most impressive of which is the prologue involving slender humanoids vaguely resembling Avatar's Na'vi, as well as a thrilling chase sequence on a desert planet where tourists go to wander a marketplace from another dimension. Amid all the spectacle, though, Besson attempts to anchor the story in the quasi-romance between the film's two heroes, with much less satisfying results.

It all adds up to a somewhat divisive moviegoing experience. But while Valerian is no doubt flawed, Besson and company certainly present a strong case for why the film deserves an audience, populating it with everything from mind-reading space jellyfish to killer robots, minor roles for Ethan Hawke and Rihanna, and enough oddball theatrics to more than compensate for any shortcomings in the performances. Make no mistake, The Fifth Element still reigns supreme as Besson's sci-fi pièce de résistance, but Valerian drops out of exospace a close second.

A film as visually stunning as Valerian deserves nothing less than a dazzling 4K experience, and this release doesn't disappoint. Whether it's the hustle and bustle of a colorful alien marketplace or a high-speed chase through the underbelly of the galaxy's largest space station, Valerian puts the "Ultra" in Ultra HD, delivering a 2160p transfer full of image detail and bursting with vibrant HDR hues of all shades. Paired with a Dolby Atmos sound mix that immerses viewers in the movie's out-of-this-world sound design — full of lasers, spaceships, alien dialects and an eclectic soundtrack featuring songs from artists like David Bowie and Bob Marley — the result is one of the most impressive titles on the format thus far.

Entertainment One's two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release includes a Blu-ray copy of the film, an iTunes digital copy and the following extras:

  • Valerian: Enhancement Mode - The ability to watch the film with various behind-the-scenes featurettes sprinkled throughout.
  • Citizens of Imagination: Creating The Universe of Valerian (59:04) - A five-part making-of documentary that delves into the film's comic book origins, the fantastical production design and the stunt work, the dynamic between DeHaan and Delevingne, the cast and their roles, and, last but not least, the visual effects work of Weta, ILM and Rodeo FX ("Paper / Ink / Flesh / Blood: Origins," "To Alpha and Beyond: Production and Stunts," "It Takes Two: Valerian & Laureline's Partnership," "Denizens Of The Galaxy: Humans And Aliens" and "The Final Element: Visual Effects").
  • Enhancement Pods (35:58) - A collection of Valerian: Enhancement Mode's 14 behind-the-scenes looks at various scenes and moments in the film ("Alpha Introduction," "Princess Lïho-Minaa," "Empress Aloï," "Destruction of Mül," "Igon Sirussm," "Motion Capture Cameras," "Kris Wu Set Tour," "Melo The Converter," "Pearl Guns," "Kris Wu 4D Scan," "Paradise Alley," "Boulan Bathor Emperor," "Emperor Haban-Limaï" and "K-Trons").
  • The Art of Valerian - A gallery of 48 pieces of concept art from the film ("Aliens," "Alpha," "Boulan Bathors," "Characters," "K-Tron," "Pearls" and "Planet Kirian: Big Market").
  • Teaser Trailer (1:39)
  • Final Trailer (1:51)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is available from Entertainment One as of November 21st, 2017. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio Optimized for Late-Night Listening and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French SDH and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 hrs. 17 min.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on July 21st, 2017.

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