If you speak to Luc Besson for even a few moments about his adaptation of the 1960s comic book Valérian and Laureline, you’ll know for sure that this isn’t just another gig for the storied filmmaker. Besson has had a relationship with the comic since his childhood, and even cites Laureline as the first girl he ever fell in love with.
And Besson is hardly all talk. The six minutes of footage shared to select press at New York Comic Con prove that the director is undertaking this developing film adaptation with a tremendous amount of vitality and fun. In fact, the collection of quick scenes we saw from the yet unfinished Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets exuded the same spirit that won Besson the world’s love back in the days of The Fifth Element.
“The Fifth Element was the last film done with old-fashioned special effects,” Besson told a table of reporters Friday morning at NYCC. In fact, he suggests that the climate of filmmaking technology has changed so drastically over the past two decades that Valerian could never have been made before today. “[Jean-Claude Mézières and I] met on The Fifth Element,” Besson said of the Valérian and Laureline comic’s original illustrator, who accompanied him to Comic Con this morning. “He’s the one who said, ‘Why don’t you do Valérian rather than this f**king Fifth Element?'” As Besson explains it, “At the time, to be honest, you couldn’t make it. There’s like five or six characters; all the rest are aliens. The technology was not ready. You really had to wait [until] Avatar.”
Eventually, the time did come for a Valerian movie, reaping the benefits of what we saw at NYCC.
The sneak preview opened with a gadget-addled Valerian (Dane DeHaan) scurrying about an un-navigable space station setting. DeHaan barks requests into his unseen communication device, through which comrade Laureline (Cara Delevingne) clues him into the quickest route to his desperately sought destination: through a solid wall.
We cut away from this sequence to catch up with an imprisoned Laureline, who, in proper badass form, tricks the two space guards (forgive the lack of technical terminology) escorting her to her would-be doom to actually take a shot at handcuffing her—“It is protocol.” In little more than a moment, she gets the drop on the duo, rendering them beaten, bruised, and cuffed to one another.
From there, we jump to the first scene of Valerian and Laureline together… bickering, as she pilots their ship recklessly through space, much to his anxious chagrin. As we learn, Laureline doesn’t take too kindly to her comrade’s constant criticism.
Although much of what we’d seen up to this point was action-oriented, we got a good look at some of the comedy, not to mention the visual imagination, set to feature in Besson’s Valerian film. One standout element was a trio of babbling Shingouz, an alien race that always travels in threes that serve as couriers of valuable information.
“They’re in lots of comic books,” Besson said. “They are informers. They sell information to everyone. The way they work, their brains are in three parts. One starts a line, the second continues, and the third one finishes the line. If you kill one of them, you lose the information. No one can kill them. They hate them! But you can’t kill them.”
We also got to see a seedy futuristic underworld in which Ethan Hawke plays a space pimp who runs an exotic dance emporium that employs the talent of shape-shifting aliens… including one played by Rihanna, so it seems.
To amp up the excitement once more, we rounded out the footage with a sequence featuring Valerian and Laureline evading the wrath of a charging rhinoceros-like alien, and, most visually stunning of all, one of Valerian sprinting through a series of increasingly outlandish atmospheres, including a realm of bubbles and a vacuum of space in which he must support his own steps by shooting out platforms of energy.
All in all, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets looks perfectly in step with Besson’s past exploits in kooky sci-fi, with all the great advancements in technology to make it work. Are you looking forward to the film? Let us know, and check out our gallery of images from the Valerian booth at NYCC.
Here’s what Besson and the cast had to say to us at Camp Conival!
Images: Michael Arbeiter
Michael Arbeiter is the East Coast Editor for Nerdist. Find him on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.