The Fifth Element creator Luc Besson’s passion project Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets hits Australia on 4K Ultra HD. So, how is it on the format? Will it simply fly by, or will it put you to sleep?
The story: Set some seven centuries into the future, the City of a Thousand Planets – an evolution of the original International Space Station – is a place where species from all over the galaxy come together in peace to share ideas and tech. United Human Federation officers Valerian and Laureline are tasked with saving the last “converter”, a mouse-like animal that basically farts out pearls. But others want it for their own greedy ends – and then there’s the little matter of a major threat to the titular space station itself.
Based on a French comic series entitled Valérian and Laureline, Besson goes the epic space opera again, much as he did with The Fifth Element. In fact, fans of that will find a lot that’s familiar here, as well as the odd sly nod to what was – and still is – a cinematic masterpiece. But while the structures may be similar, Valerian turns the effects and scope of fantasy up notches above those of TFE, while dialling down the humour. Many will find that it’s a satisfying space romp and an utter visual treat, but perhaps having two actually likeable leads – like The Fifth Element – may have made more sense?
“It’s our mission that doesn’t make sense, sir.”
The 4K disc: While Besson’s Lucy and The Fifth Element both came to 4K Ultra HD toting native resolution transfers, this one was actually finished at 2K, so we receive an upscale. As many will have experienced, there are upscales and there are upscales – some look just alright, while others can be quite stunning. Pleasingly, especially considering its often jaw-droppingly amazing visuals, Valerian falls into the latter camp. Bolstered by Dolby Vision (and HDR for those without it), the many worlds within the movie look absolutely astonishing at times – and sure, they mostly appear quite artificial, but they ARE quite artificial! What this transition to 4K Ultra HD delivers is an often surprisingly sharp and detailed transfer that sometimes belies its 2K origins.
If you’re after a thunderous soundtrack that joyously flits between speakers all around you and above you, then you’ve come to the right movie. The Dolby Atmos mix here really is quite a delight, keeping a perfect balance between dialogue and the many effects that whoosh about the sound bubble, while kicking the sub into life at many a juncture that’s appopriate. The playfulness of the audio is apparent right from the opening strains of Bowie’s Space Oddity, as it begins in mono and then deftly spreads to the other channels.
To complete a pleasing package, a raft of extras are included – which is a very good thing, as there’s no standard Blu-ray packed in. These amount to an almost hour-long documentary entitled Citizens of Imagination: Creating the Universe of Valerian, over half an hour of “Enhancement Pods” – a fancy name for a bunch of featurettes – plus a photo gallery and two trailers.
Release date: November 28, 2018
Format: 4K Ultra HD
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen
Want to know what to get next? Check out STACK‘s 4K Ultra HD specifications guide.