Director Luc Besson premiered the first footage of his upcoming film #Valerian And The City of a Thousand Planets at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 this weekend, and audiences went wild over it. Based on the 1970's French comic book Valérian and Laureline, the movie follows a pair of agents tasked with traveling through both time and space to maintain order in the human territories of the future.
Audiences who were there to view the footage passionately responded with a standing ovation, signaling that Valerian may just be the next great sci-fi hit.
For hardcore sci-fi fans, the space-opera could be a dream come true. Over 200 hundred species are shown throughout the film, and comics often dealt trippy paradoxes caused by time travel. And Besson has stressed that the humanity of Valerian will draw in even the most skeptical moviegoers.
The film's lead actors are coming from major comic book films, while the director -- Luc Besson -- is behind one of the best sci-fi films ever made -- The Fifth Element. According to the lucky few who saw Besson's SDCC footage, Valerian was The Fifth Element and Star Wars on steroids in a controlled environment. The footage was fun, spectacular, and left you wanting more. So, where do I sign up?
What Is 'Valerian' All About?
Set in the the 28th century (think 2750 or so), Valerian explores travel though space and time, and how the ability to do so has changed not only Earth but every universe in existence. Humanity has had to evolve with such abilities being adapted to everyday life. And with new species and universes being just a time or space jump away, new dangers are closer than ever before.
The main character, named Valerian of course, is a time-traveling space agent tasked by Earth's government to monitor any anomalies or problems throughout space and time within the human territories. He and his partner, Laureline, work together to keep everything in line, even though they have vastly different personalities. Think of them as the dysfunctional undercover unit of the FBI, but for time travel.
Valerian is a guy who follows the rules and gets the job done — even when morally convicted. Meanwhile, his partner Laureline is cunning and always one step ahead of her partner, or anyone else for that matter. Together they work to prevent rogue time travelers from creating temporal paradoxes throughout time. The crime fighting duo definitely have more than a "professional" relationship, but Laureline is a smart woman who can separate the personal and the professional.
The Cast: Who's Our Valerian and Laureline?
The upcoming film is lead by the perfect pair. Actor Dane DeHaan, best known for roles in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and The Place Beyond The Pines, takes on the role of Valerian while Laureline is being played by Cara Delevigne, who you will see in the upcoming Suicide Squad. Both actors are well-versed in sci-fi, and spent six months in Paris filming Valerian.
DeHaan said that filming Valerian has been the most challenging yet for him physically, even with cooling systems built inside the plastic space-traveling jumpsuits the actors wore. As a fan, DeHaan also suggested the importance of people reading the comics before the film and understanding where it all started:
"There's a great history of it in being the original space opera which things like 'Star Wars' obviously took from, so in a lot of ways it's the original but also we're the new kids on the block who people haven't heard of but should have. I think it's important to read the comics."
Valerian also has an impressive supporting cast. We know that Clive Owen is playing Commander Arün Filitt, Valerian and Laureline's commander, with Sam Spruell cast as General Okto Bar. The film also includes unknown roles for the likes of John Goodman, Rutger Hauer and jazz legend Herbie Hancock among more. We also know that music superstar Rihanna plays an Alien stripper of sorts, with Besson himself said he hired her for her acting talents, not her musical fame.
What The Comic-Con Footage Showed
While the Valerian Comic-Con footage has yet to hit the web, reports on what was shown make it sound insanely cool. The footage featured hundreds of aliens, intricately designed metal space suits, multiple dimensions, and plenty of comical banter between Valerian and Laureline. All in all, those in attendance wanted more!
In one scene, Laureline was escorted by two aliens who appeared to be detaining her. Being the smart-minded and smart-mouthed woman she is, she decided to banter with them a little before she kicked their asses.
“I don’t want to tell you guys how to do your jobs—but don’t you think you should cuff me? First because it’s practical, but also because I’m very tempted to escape,” she said before engaging in said arse kicking.
Another scene revealed a cameo from actor Ethan Hawke. Sci-fi fans Hawke also starred in one of the most highly regarded sci-fi films to date, Gattaca, so it's fitting to see him in what looks to be another epic sci-fi adventure. He lures Valerian to the moment he meets Rihanna's character.
The footage also showed off the film's impressive production design and special effects with a montage jumping through dimensions. According to viewers, the visuals were some of the best in recent sci-fi film-making. Wired's Peter Rubin recounted the last moments of the footage by saying:
"There are industrial chambers, conduits that look like they’re filled with molecular models, and one jungle environment that Valerian hop-skips across like a third-person platformer videogame."
The takeaway is that if just this 7 minutes of the film inspired the passionate reaction it did, the full-length film is going to take us on a ride we have yet to take in theaters before.
How True Will The Movie Be To The Source Material?
Director Luc Besson told SDCC audiences he has been wanting to make this film since he was 10 years old. He loved the comics so much, that at 55 years old, he finally decided to make the film. So, it's safe to assume this will be pretty faithful to the source material. The original comics displayed a variety of plots following Valerian and Laureline in their travels, so they provide an array of directions for the film, making it exciting to see which one it takes. As a fan of Luc Bessons, I admit I am being optimistic, but hey, early buzz proves the film's potential for greatness.
From what we know, it sounds like we will be thrust into the world of Valerian and Laureline, ditching the standard origin story and going straight for the action. The relationship between the two seems strong, which is consistent with the comics. Thankfully, producers aren't straying too far from the source on that one.
Another great piece of info is the film is set in the same universe and time as the comics, even though we are eerily closer to the time of this futuristic world than we were when the comics were written in the 70's. How deep they will go into time travel and temporal space paradoxes remains unseen, but the SDCC footage confirms that we will see various dimensions and tons of aliens, which will definitely please fans.
Besson told his SDCC audience that when he made The Fifth Element nearly 20 years ago, computer graphics were pretty lame. But now, they have made it possible to make Valerian in the caliber it deserves. He also remarked on his reputation for strong and impressive female heroines and how, in the beginning of his career, he was very alone is his ideas:
“Twenty years ago ago, I was weird. Twenty years later, the world got as weird as me.”
Besson's The Professional launched Natalie Portman's career, and his character Leeloo in The Fifth Element has been revered by fans for decades. According to Delevigne, Laureline follows in the footsteps of those unforgettable female characters. We definitely won't complain about another great female character entering the world of science fiction.
Does 'Valerian' Represent A New Generation Of Sci-Fi?
Like many, I'm freaking out over the recent resurrection of the Star Wars franchise, but man am I excited for the new blood in town. Valerian has positioned itself to launch the new generation of sci-fi, and give the genre a much needed shake-up. The Valerian comics helped inspire sci-fi hits like the Star Wars films and Avatar, and because of that some might assume the Valerian movie will have trouble coming across as unique. But that definitely doesn't seem to be the case.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets exists in its own world, and merely inspired the creation of others. The story's connection to Star Wars and Avatar doesn't determine its quality or validity. Remove that connection, and you're left with a groundbreaking sci-fi saga that can stand on its own legs just fine. Among a sea of remakes and recycled storylines, Valerian should stand as a 100 percent original work.
The standing ovation the Valerian footage received should not be taken lightly, especially because standing ovations are not an SDCC norm. Trust me, I was in Hall H when Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice was announced 3 years ago, and there wasn't much of a standing ovation for that. So if you were to ask me if I think this movie is going to be good? I'd tell you yes. Then I'd tell you to pick up the comic, and get ready for the time of your life when Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets crash lands in 2017, because it's going to be a game-changer.
Do you think Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets can live up to the sci-fi cinematic giants it inspired? Let me know in the comments below.