Luc Besson’s return to hard sci-fi looks to be triumphant.
The Luc Besson umbrella is a wide one. He writes and produces far beyond his realm as a director, and has contributed some of the most frenetic and stylized popcorn-action flicks of the last couple decades: The Transporter series, Columbiana, From Paris With Love, District B-13, the Taken series, and Lucy, to name a few. And while I might not always like these flicks (though mostly I do), I think what attracts me most to the work of Besson is his zeal. You can feel his passion for storytelling in every scene, in every line of dialogue or over-the-top fight sequence; he loves this stuff, and he loves getting a little louder, a little wilder, and pushing things a little farther each outing. Taken is a smarter, more starkly brutal version of The Transporter, Columbiana is a female-driven, bolder Leon, and Lucy is a sci-fi take on La Femme Nikita. Besson might repeat himself thematically, but aesthetically he at least attempts to outdo himself, and the effort is often thrilling to watch.
But for my money the most Besson film out there is The Fifth Element, the director’s sci-fi masterpiece released in 1997 that combines the seeming boundlessness of Besson’s imagination with a highly-structured narrative that employs and manipulates an array of sci-fi tropes: the badass adorable alien girl, the Dulcinea Effect, the birthmark of destiny, karmic death and scores more.
On The Fifth Element, Besson worked up the film’s memorable conceptual design with one of his heroes, artist and illustrator Jean-Claude Mézières, co-creator of Valerian and Laureline, a French sci-fi comic strip launched in 1967 that had been a major part of Besson’s personal creative development. After the success of The Fifth Element, Mézières wanted Besson to adapt V&L for the big screen, but once he did some light pre-production work, Besson determined the state of VFX technology wasn’t where he wanted it to be to do the project justice, so he shelved it.
But it was never far from his mind. If Besson has a dream project, Valerian is it, so he waited patiently for people like James Cameron and The Wachowskis to push the technical bar higher, and while he did he kept going back to the script, honing it, getting it ready for the moment he felt he could start shooting. That moment came about 18 months ago, and our first look at the result – now titled Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – came this morning in the form of the first teaser trailer. And man oh man, if you thought The Fifth Element was a catch-all of sci-fi tropes and elements, wait til you get a look at this.
There are spaceships, lasers, lots of neon blues and violets, glowing space suits, megastructures drifting in open space, hordes of monstrous aliens, wormholes, heroic leaps, sexual tension, robots, androgynously-gorgeous leads in Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) and Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad), swordplay, techno-enhanced humans, cityscapes like circuitry, and Rihanna. Okay, so that last one isn’t really an established trope, but I’m hoping it becomes one.
Long story short, Valerian looks like it’s the kitchen sink of sci-fi films, but I think that’s okay because despite all this inclusion, the film (or at least the trailer) doesn’t feel overcrowded, it feels instead fully-realized and meticulously layered with detail, which makes for the best kind of sci-fi, the kind where the suspension of disbelief isn’t as big of a leap because the world of the film – or in this case worlds – have been so vividly rendered.
Rounding out the cast of Valerian is John Goodman, Ethan Hawke, Clive Owen and Rutger Hauer, and the film is scheduled for release July 21st, 2017. I’m willing to bet it’s going to be a big deal.
Or, you know, it’s going to be Jupiter Ascending, but I’m choosing to air on the side of positivity. Check out the trailer and decide for yourself.
Related Topics: Science Fiction