Anna is due to follow up Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and has already secured some acting heavyweights.
When you’re an auteur (who is also preferably a dude), anything is possible. The colossal flop (and arguably the lazy mistake) that was Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets doesn’t seem to have deterred a distributor like Lionsgate to get behind Luc Besson‘s new feature, let alone to do so as quickly. According to Variety, Anna will be Besson’s next action vehicle and will star some serious Hollywood talent, including Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, and Cillian Murphy. Newcomer Sasha Luss will take up the eponymous role, presumably as a badass female character a la Natalie Portman in Léon: The Professional or Scarlett Johansson in Lucy.
I personally didn’t care for Lucy at all. The film’s basic premise was interesting enough and perhaps there might have been a way for me to enjoy it a lot more without the casual, unaddressed racism. But there were other narrative problems to contend with too, most blatant of all being the bland protagonist that did not serve as any kind of anchor for the audience. Per FSR’s review of Lucy: “Besson knows how to blend action and science fiction, but without a character to really care about, Lucy becomes a spectacle rather than a compelling narrative.”
Valerian seemed to suffer from the exact same problem, which Rob Hunter points out in his review:
“Besson’s preference of bright, dynamic colors paired with interesting design choices…keeps viewers’ eyes open and frequently satisfied. […] It’s a pretty movie.
But… and this is a big ol’ but… the experience is tanked by Besson’s lazy script and two lead performances/personalities that make you wish he had cast recently painted walls in the roles instead.”
So, that’s two relatively recent strikes against Besson. It’s a style-over-substance approach which many a director has employed before, but there is such a thing as too much style. Regardless, it looks as though Besson will have his way. Anna will be part of EuropaCorp’s — the filmmaker’s production company — new mandate to focus exclusively on action and sci-fi films post-Valerian. Furthermore, a sequel to Lucy is already actively in the works, with a script written by Besson. Lionsgate MPG chairman Patrick Wachsberger and president of acquisitions and co-productions Jason Constantine are also 100% behind Besson and his vision as well:
“We are delighted to be reunited with Luc and his EuropaCorp team on another exciting, action-packed film featuring an A-list cast. Luc is a visionary filmmaker with whom we are proud to extend our longstanding relationship.”
Although there is no hint of any plot details floating around at the moment, that’s not necessarily the main draw in the Besson experience these days. Lionsgate’s statement encapsulates the sentiment perfectly: people should primarily go in for the action and the faces and it’ll hopefully be a fun time. For better or worse, the high-concept/low-content factor that has come to define Besson’s directorial career in the last few years is here to stay.