Comic-Con 2016 | Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian’ Looks Out Of This World
Why did Luc Besson spend a decade developing a big budget adaptation of Valerian and Laureline, based on a comic book many people haven’t heard of, and many others only know as a key influence on Star Wars?
“I’m stubborn,” he joked at Comic-Con 2016.
“No, I love it. I honestly, deeply love the thing since I was ten years old, and I love, love Valerian and Laureline, and I love the couple. They were with me from ten to twenty. I’m attached to them. I always dreamed to do it, but for a long time I’ve heard it would be impossible to do. Too [many] aliens, too much… it was just impossible.”
But times have changed. Now, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is debuting its first footage ever at Comic-Con 2016, and although Luc Besson is careful to explain that the few scenes we are watching were just finished four days ago, and they don’t have finished visual effects, it’s abundantly clear that his vision for the film is indeed possible with today’s filmmaking technology. And what’s more, that this film is going to look really, really, REALLY cool. The handful of pictures that currently exist from the production aren’t doing it justice (although they look pretty good too).
The scenes we watched were as follows…
Valerian, played by Dane DeHaan, running through a space station. Laureline, played by Cara Delevingne, is guiding him via an intercom, and leads him directly into a wall. She casually dismisses his rather obvious critique by stating that he asked for the shortest route possible. (We’ll come back to this…)
In another scene, Laureline is being led through a space station (or spaceship) by two guards, but she soon makes short work of them and handcuffs them together. Then she corners a group of platypus people and says something very important.
At a completely different point in the film, Valerian and Laureline are landing their spacecraft on an alien planet. Valerian makes the mistake of criticizing Laureline’s driving, leading to an extended sequence in which she lets their ship free fall into the atmosphere, just because he’s being a schmuck.
Elsewhere in the film, Valerian appears to be making his way through a space station’s red light district, where a fabulously garbed Ethan Hawke tries to drum up business for his brothel/nightclub. Valerian says he’s looking for a “glampod,” specifically a “retro” model. Ethan Hawke has just the thing: Rihanna, who is just about to do her dance when the footage cuts away.
Back on the alien planet, Valerian and Laureline are running from a giant monster while their alien cohorts shoot it with virtual gatling guns. This part of the footage presentation appears the most unfinished, or at least the most unclear, because certain characters appear to be shifting in and out of motion capture throughout the scene.
And finally, back at the intro, Valerian is still staring at that wall. Laureline tells him, “Come on, it’s Comic-Con” (which presumably will not be in the feature film) and then he runs headfirst through the wall, then underneath a giant robot, through a gorgeous hydroponics room, then across an empty void, and into what can only be described as a kaleidoscopic whirlwind… all in a single shot.
Luc Besson assures us that we’ve only seen a small portion of that running sequence, which will take Valerian through nine separate environments over the course of 45 seconds. It already looks like one of the most stunningly visualized action sequences I’ve seen in years, and it certainly seems indicative of the colorful and dynamic style that Luc Besson originally brought to the sci-fi classic The Fifth Element, a film to which Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will inevitably be compared.
“The Fifth Element was 20 years ago, and it was weird at the time,” Luc Besson reminds us. “So the world was kind of like, ‘What the fuck is this thing?’ I think that in 20 years I’m still the same and the world became became much more weirder than before. So now we met. So I think that people won’t be as surprised as [they were] 20 years ago.”
“Twenty years ago when the president of the universe in my movie was black, I remember at a test screening a couple of white guys saying, ‘What the fuck is this film?’ They were like, ‘Whoa.’ Or having a blue singer singing opera in space. That was too weird at the time. So I guess [Valerian] is more acceptable in terms of the storytelling. It’s much more agreeable because we have a guy, we have a girl, and we can easily stay over there, but the world’s still totally crazy, that’s for sure.”
How crazy are we talking about? “There’s a big scene at the beginning where you’re in two different dimensions, worlds, and you have to go from one to [the other]. You can see one, then the other. It’s such a mess to shoot, first, and to watch I think it will be much more easy,” he adds, laughing.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will premiere in theaters on July 21, 2017.
Top Photo: EuropaCorp
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved, Rapid Reviews and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.