The critical reaction to Luc Besson’s long-in-the-works sci-fi epic Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets is pretty consistent: gorgeous to look at, but dumb as a rock. That’s pretty much our assessment, as well as that of astronomer Andy Howell, who, in his latest episode of Science Vs. Cinema, offers the perspective of someone who actually understands how outer space works. Along the way, he also chats with several members of the film’s cast and crew about what it was like working within a world that was more digital than actual.
Not that Besson or his crew were all that concerned with reflecting reality in a movie where characters can see across time by sticking their heads in a jellyfish’s anus, but it’s still neat to hear how his vision of environmentally diverse space stations and virtual cities stacks up to science.
Howell’s biggest complaint? Being able to see multiple planets hovering within one planet’s atmosphere. Sure, it may look pretty, but a basic understanding of astrophysics shows it to be nothing but an aesthetic fantasy.
Luckily, Valerian is well aware of its spectacle and doesn’t allow the Neil DeGrasse Tysons of the world to stop it from flaunting some seriously striking visuals. You’re just going to want to flick off the side of your brain that desires logic, empathy, and character identification.