Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, Reviewed by Kirsten Snyder

When I first saw the preview for this film, I was incredibly excited. The Fifth Element is one of my favorite films, and this was another Luc Besson film filled with brilliant story and imagery. I bought the comic it was based on and started to find out more about the world of Valerian. I soon realized that 1960’s Valerian was based on liberal humanism, and one of the stories ended in a world with the triune God, Hippy Jesus being one of them. It has rich political overtone and it has influenced much sci-fi that came after it (including Star Wars). If you want a peak into 1960’s worldview, pick them up!

When I finally went to see Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, what touched me the most about it wasn’t the dazzling effects or scenery—but rather the story of one character played by my Barbadian girl, Rihanna. She played a shape-shifting entertainer named Bubble. This alien was well-cultured and educated in her craft, but was being held essentially as a sex slave. It is easy to see this scene as simply eye-candy because my girl, Rihanna, is gorgeous and cute (those are different); plus, she dances in a suggestive manner. But the reason it has stuck with me is the psychology of a slave that is displayed. Despite being held as a slave, she still cared what her “audience” thought of her performance.

Dr. Katy Robjant is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, and she is currently the Head of Therapy Services at the Helen Bamber Foundation, an organization which supports survivors of human rights violations. She provides specialist psychological therapies for the treatment of mental health problems in asylum-seekers and refugees. She writes, “Many survivors who have experienced abusive relationships with slave owners talk about having difficulties trusting others, and yet have significant problems keeping themselves safe, often becoming involved in other exploitative relationships once they have escaped the slavery situation. Psychologists understand this in terms of attachment style, the idea being that traumatic attachments with abusive partners set templates for future relationships. It is no coincidence that those not born into slavery, but tricked into it, for example victims of trafficking, often have histories of traumatic relationships during childhood. Slave owners are able to select those whose early trauma within relationships with caregivers or others predispose them to an inability to assess risk within relationships, and whose psychological need to receive interest and affection from others means that they are more willing to disregard or fail to notice early warning signs of abuse in a relationship.” This is important to know when dealing with foster and adoptive children, refugees, victims of domestic violence, or our neighbor who we just don’t know the background of. If you have wondered why someone could stay in or return to a harmful situation, maybe this will help to understand what might be going on.

That is the great thing about art; it expresses so much. "Theater teaches you how to understand other people and how to feel empathy for those who are not like us," John Leguizamo said at the 2018 Tony Awards.