Director Luc Besson knows how to take risks, which is sometimes massively successful (The Fifth Element, The Professional) and other times remunerative but not lauded by all (Lucy). His newest risk is the most expensive independent film ever made, the $200-million budgeted Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets based on the comic book Valérian et Laureline, which influenced Star Wars.
Besson has been a fan of the comic since age 10, citing his crush on Laureline and his enjoyment of seeing a “modern couple” who act like regular people but they’re in space in the 28th century. Besson has wanted to adapt the comic for years, but it wasn’t until recently that special effects caught up with the visuals on the page. As Besson says in the featurette above, “Avatar made everything possible.” While The Fifth Element had 188 special effects shots, Valerian has 2,734.
The director also privately screened four scenes from the film at CineEurope in Barcelona, including an action-filled opening scene introducing special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne). After showing the action-heavy scene, Besson reportedly joked Valerian is “clearly a very French, intellectual film.” Indeed. Any movie where Rihanna plays an alien exotic dancer is undoubtedly a French, intellectual film in the best way.
At CineEurope, Besson also put the number of special effects scenes in perspective by pointing out there were about 2,300 people working on the film. He joked, “It’s two hours, nine minutes long, but with the credits about three hours and twenty.” One of those people was Jean-Claude Mézières, the illustrator for the original comics who also worked with Besson on The Fifth Element. While working on that earlier film, Mézières told Besson that “this Fifth Element thing” looks like Valerian, so why not just do Valerian? Two decades after that suggestion, Valerian is coming to theaters on July 21st.