Luc Besson's “The Fifth Element” is one of those movies that seems to have grown over the years since it was first released, and I am pleased to see how often it's mentioned these days or referenced in some way. It has been confounding to see Besson's directing career over the eighteen years since it came out, though, because he hasn't even come close to making a film in the same genre. There was a point where he claimed he was completely retired, and he's made movies like “Arthur And The Invisibles” and “Lucy” instead of making the “Fifth Element” sequel “Mr. Shadow” or something else that might scratch that same itch.
When I moderated the Universal panel for “Lucy” at WonderCon in the spring of 2014, I got some time to talk to Besson about his work in general, and we talked about how he felt like he had made “The Fifth Element” at the exact wrong moment. Digital Domain's work in that film is amazing, and it leaned heavily on both models and miniatures. While there are some digital elements, it's mainly a compositing job, and Besson bemoaned the amount of heavy lifting it took to create that world when we spoke. He said he made the movie right before it got easy to make movies like that thanks to the sudden proliferation of CG.
Now he's announced his next film, and in doing so, he's made it clear that he is finally heading back to that kind of big-canvass science-fiction. Here's his very first Tweet:
My first tweet ever! Let”s share a real news! My next film is a big sci-fi: #Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
– Luc Besson (@lucbesson) May 12, 2015
He also announced that the film will star Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, and that it will be called “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” I'm totally unfamiliar with the comic that serves as the original source material, but considering how closely Besson took cues from the Jodorowsky/Moebius “Incal” comics with “The Fifth Element,” it's unsurprising to see that “Varlerian and Laureline” looks to tap into that same sort of '60s era French science-fiction tradition. The series was published for over 40 years total, only wrapping up five years ago. In the comics, Valerian is a “spatio-temporal” agent and hot redhead Laureline is his constant adventure companion. Set in the 28th Century, it sounds like a very European series, with Pierre Christin using the broader tropes of space opera and time travel to tell stories with strong social and political content.
In general, a quick read of the Wikipedia page for the comics makes it sound like amazing source material for a film, and Besson's got a cast that feels just right for this. Dane DeHaan is the sort of actor Besson works best with, visually striking people who he can shoot as icons. Delevingne is one of those actors on the cusp of having the right break-out role, and it feels like the studios are all trying to figure out what that role is. If the two of them work together well, if they have great chemistry, then that could make all the difference in pulling off a film or a series of films.
I'm just excited to see Besson back in this genre, and I'm going to keep my eye on this project as it starts to work its way forward, rooting for this to give us something as endlessly delightful as “LeeeelooooDallasMoooolteeeeepass.”