ByBrooke Geller, writer at Creators.co
Movie Pilot staff writer, aspiring shieldmaiden and friend to all doggos. twitter.com/brookalus
Brooke Geller

Ready to hear some crazy numbers? According to Cineuropa, Luc Besson's upcoming space opera Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is going to make quite the financial splash. Its budget came in at a massive €197.47 million. That's around $209 million.

That figure alone is enough to earn the movie the title of not only Besson's biggest budget film yet, but the most expensive movie ever made in France— and possibly Europe.

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets [Credit: STX Entertainment]
Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets [Credit: STX Entertainment]

Judging by the most recent dazzling trailer for Valerian, it's easy to see where that money's gone. 's massive world, stunning visual effects and hundreds of alien species would easily eat up a budget like that. And if director Besson's learned anything from making The Fifth Element, it's that good sci-fi doesn't come cheap.

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Besson Fought To Keep Production (Mostly) In France

French-born Besson may live in the States, but he's still a proud patriot. It's for this reason that he was so intent on keeping Valerian's production in his homeland; something he wasn't able to do with The Fifth Element.

However, it almost didn't happen at all. France grants tax credits to both French-language French films and foreign, English-language films filmed in France. Unfortunately, as a French film with an English script, Valerian didn't fall under either category. According to the Telegraph, producing the film in France would mean Besson would miss out on an estimated "€15 to €20 million" in tax credits.

It was with a heavy heart that Besson resigned himself to making his film in the far-cheaper European country of Hungary. Luckily, the French government — eager not to miss out on such a boost to their economy — stepped in and changed the tax credit requirements to include English-language French films. France had Besson's business.

'Valerian' Is Big Budget, But So Was 'The Fifth Element'

20 years ago, The Fifth Element's $90 million budget was so massive that Besson struggled to get film companies to take it on. It was just too high risk; and while it did eventually get picked up, it was the most expensive European film ever made at the time.

Given the production process, it's pretty obvious why such an impressive figure was necessary— and not just in terms of the visual effects. With Jean Paul Gaultier signed on as costume designer, the artiste went all out to bring his vision to life. The end result? According to Elle, over 900 costumes were designed. For the average fashion designer, that equates to roughly 10 collections.

Gaultier was meticulous, often personally checking 500 costumes a day before they went on set. He spared no cost, either; with a single jacket costing $5,000, you can only imagine the budget he had to play with.

Does A Big Budget Equal A Great Film?

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets [Credit: STX Entertainment]
Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets [Credit: STX Entertainment]

The Fifth Element's record-breaking budget might have been a gamble, but it certainly paid it. It went on to earn almost three times its expenses at $263 million, making it the most financially successful French film. It was applauded for its use of visual effects, and has become a firm cult classic.

For Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is his chance to present his vision once more, and achieve what wasn't possibly 20 years ago. Not only is he building off an established concept with new visual effects technology, but he's taken inspiration from groundbreaking, VFX-heavy films like Avatar to really push Valerian's effects to the limits.

Valerian will open against Dunkirk, which may give it a good chance to earn a decent profit given the differing genres. Mind you, the size of the budget is by no means indicative of the success of a film; but considering the way Besson allocated The Fifth Element's funds, Valerian's budget might just prove to be money well-spent.

Do you think Valerian's big budget will boost it to success?

(Source: Telegraph, Cineuropa, Elle)


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