Luc Besson's latest sci-fi opera, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, is just one month away from being released — and judging from the footage so far, he's had his work cut out for him.
Set in the 28th Century, #Valerian — which will be the most expensive French film ever made — is set in a universe that features approximately 3,236 different species. But according to a recently released featurette, none of it would have been possible without the help of James Cameron's Avatar.
What's 'Avatar' Got To Do With It?
Valerian and Avatar aren't all that different. They both feature aliens, underwater-inspired environments and a race to save the world. But the one thing that really connects them is their special effects.
You see, Besson had been wanting to make this film long before he even began working on his most iconic sci-fi movie, The Fifth Element. A huge fan of the Valérian et Laureline comics since he was ten years old, Besson admitted he'd "waited my entire life to make this film":
"It has always been my dream to put their characters on a big screen. And now it's the time."
So why didn't he make #Valerian earlier? Even Jean-Claude Mézières, one of the original creators behind Valérian et Laureline, asked Besson this very question while he was working on #TheFifthElement — and Besson's reason was more than understandable:
"The environment was just crazy. It's like, aliens everywhere and worlds everywhere. When I was working on 'The Fifth Element' with [Jean-Claude] Mézières, the main designer from 'Valerian', he was the one saying, 'Why you don't do "Valerian"? Why you do this "Fifth Element" thing?' I mean, the technology was not good at the time. It was not possible."
This is where Avatar comes in. The 2009 film didn't just make waves with Cameron's career; it completely changed the special effects industry. It pioneered brand-new techniques for motion capture, as well as 3D cinema.
It was these advancements that gave Besson the key he needed to finally make his cinematic dreams come true. As the director says, "Avatar makes everything possible. There's no limit anymore."
Check out the video for yourself:
What Can We Expect From 'Valerian'?
It's early days yet, but Besson is promising big things for Valerian. The director is clearly aiming to create something on the same visual scale as Avatar, immersing the viewer in a crazy new world. While it's too soon to tell if he'll be able to deliver, there's no denying that he's put in a ton of work to achieve his vision:
"On 'The Fifth Element', there's 188 special effects shots, when in 'Valerian', there's 2,734."
Besson has been working on this project for a long time. He began conceptualizing the early artistic concept three whole years before filming even began. Nevertheless, Besson talks a big game. While Valerian may be visually stunning, no amount of dazzling effects can make up for a weak narrative. Will Valerian be able to deliver on its story, or will it pale in comparison to other recent sci-fi titles? We'll surely find out soon enough.
What are your expectations for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets?