It is the height of irony that valerian, the flowering plant that lends its name to the hero of Luc Besson's sci-fi extravaganza "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," is sold in health-food stores as a sleep aid.
But the story, which seems to have been bumped from first to last on Besson's very long to-do list, is tedious, cockamamie and meandering.
The most flagrant example of the movie's attention deficit is a scene set in the space station's red-light district, where Valerian encounters a pimp, played by a cowboy-hatted, scenery-chewing Ethan Hawke and an extraterrestrial prostitute called Bubble (singer Rihanna), whose shape-shifting services Valerian is seeking to make use of as a disguise.
What's more, the movie's two heroes are only ever referred to by their first names, lending the rare instances in which they're addressed by formal military rank - Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline - the absurd ring of co-host names on a Saturday morning TV show from the 1960s.
But much of the visuals that follow occupy that uncomfortable gap between the cool and the trying-too-hard, with appearances by high-tech visors that look more like BluBlocker sunglasses, and an incongruous mix of uniform styles that range from badass armor-plating to Gestapo-esque evocations of "Flash Gordon" surplus.