French filmmaker Luc Besson has directed indisputable classics such as The Fifth Element and La Femme Nikita, but his latest film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, has failed to impress critics. The reviews have praised the visual effects but not much else, and it currently has a 51 percent fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Besson doesn't seem to be thrilled about this situation ... and about the comparative, continued success of Hollywood superhero films. Speaking with Brazilian website Cine Pop, the renowned director revealed that he's sick of the superhero frenzy:
"Totally tired of it. Totally. I mean, it was great 10 years ago when we seen the first Spider-Man, Iron Man, and now it’s like number five, six, seven. There’s superheroes working with another superhero, but it’s not the same family. I’m lost.
That's not an uncommon complaint — it's difficult to get original film concepts produced nowadays — but #LucBesson went one step further, blaming the superhero phenomenon on American hubris and a collective messiah complex:
"And by the way, the aliens are nice [in Valerian], you know, compared to big Hollywood films where the alien is always the villain, and the hero, which is always American, wants to show the power of America and how they can defend us. Brazilians and French, poor guys who say, ‘oh my god, thank you so much, you’re here.'
"What bothers me most is that it’s always here to show the supremacy of America and how they are great. I mean, which country in the world would have the guts to call a film ‘Captain Brazil?’ or ‘Captain France?’ I mean no one. We would be like so ashamed and say ‘no, no, we can’t do that.’ They can. They call it ‘Captain America’. And everybody thinks it’s normal. So, I’m not here for propaganda, I’m here to tell a story.”
Was Luc Besson Right Or Wrong To Call Superhero Movies 'Propaganda'?
As a fan of comic book movies, I have to say that Besson's comments are coming at a strange time. This year has given us some of the genre's best ever, including Logan and Wonder Woman.
Sure, there's a tendency for Hollywood films to portray extraterrestrial aliens as hostile threats like in the Alien franchise and Independence Day. But we don't have to look far for the opposite: films such as Arrival, Contact and Guardians of the Galaxy in which the aliens are benevolent or at least capable of doing good.
Plus, Besson's jab at Captain America as a propaganda symbol for the U.S. is a total misconception. Yes, Captain America was created to inspire the population against Hitler; at the time, Americans needed a hero to rally then (even if just in comic books). But the modern films have given us a Steve Rogers who stands up the military-industrial complex when it violates civil rights. (As for Besson's remark about "Captain Brazil" and "Captain France," there is actually a Captain Brazil in #Marvel Comics, as well as the famous Captain Britain.)
Nonetheless, we must understand Besson's sentiments in a broader context...
Why Visionary Filmmakers Are Frustrated With Hollywood Right Now
While Besson criticized superhero comic book movies in general, I believe he's speaking about a much broader issue: franchise moviemaking. He admitted "it was great 10 years ago when we seen the first Spider-Man, Iron Man," but his problem seems to be "number five, six, seven." Besson's Valerian is itself a take on the French comic book series of the same name.
Besson has always been a virtuoso; The Fifth Element was a totally unique vision. But today Hollywood executives want to minimize risk, which means adapting established intellectual property — especially superheroes and their sequels. While that guarantees money for Hollywood executives, it hurts those filmmakers who want to tell an original story.
So, franchise fatigue is totally understandable, because it sometimes takes years for an original idea to get green-lit and hit the silver screen. Case in point: Edgar Wright's Baby Driver, which took the risk of releasing in theaters in the same month as Wonder Woman. Though a huge box office risk, Baby Driver earned a staggering $156 million on a $34 million budget.
So, while Besson has a point that making an original film is difficult now that Hollywood's attention is focused on superhero properties, Baby Driver proves that an original concept is still able to thrive, if it's a story that audiences love. Unfortunately, Valerian bombed — with a box office revenue of $89 million on a $177 million budget — because it just wasn't a good movie.
I've been a fan of Besson's movies for a long time. He has written and directed many of my favorite films, like The Transporter, Leon: The Professional and Taken, but his mocking of Captain America and his rant on U.S. propaganda and superhero movies is a bit out of the ordinary. Perhaps Valerian's box office and critical failure in the U.S. has frustrated the director — but if he has another truly original vision and a great story to back it up, then audiences will be there for it.
What do you think about Luc Besson's comments? Sound off down below!
[Source: Bleeding Cool]