– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Luc Besson is definitely one of the more interesting filmmakers around today. Despite having one of the strangest filmographies out there, Besson has managed to find success with such films as THE PROFESSIONAL and THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Perhaps it’s the over-the-top or unique and foreign feeling that his films usually have that has some fans hooked on his style–which is perhaps the closest we’ve gotten to live-action anime.

Fans of Besson will be happy to know that the director is moving back into the world of strange, high science fiction in his latest film, so lovingly entitled VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, which is based on the French comic book VALÉRIAN AND LAURELINE. Before I go even further, I’d like to point out just how wonderfully pulp that title is, and was sold the instant I learned it was a thing. Yesterday, Besson shared the first photo from the film. There we found an armored Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. Take a look below.

Now, EW has brought us a series of other images. Check them out in all their colorful glory!

Check out the synopsis for the film below:

“Rooted in the classic graphic novel series, VALERIAN AND LAURELINE- visionary writer/director Luc Besson advances this iconic source material into a contemporary, unique and epic science fiction saga.
Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are special operatives for the government of the human territories charged with maintaining order throughout the universe. Valerian has more in mind than a professional relationship with his partner- blatantly chasing after her with propositions of romance. But his extensive history with women, and her traditional values, drive Laureline to continuously rebuff him.
Under directive from their Commander (Clive Owen), Valerian and Laureline embark on a mission to the breathtaking intergalactic city of Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis comprised of thousands of different species from all four corners of the universe. Alpha’s seventeen million inhabitants have converged over time- uniting their talents, technology and resources for the betterment of all. Unfortunately, not everyone on Alpha shares in these same objectives; in fact, unseen forces are at work, placing our race in great danger.”

Luc Besson even talked at length about the film. According to the director, as of this writing, they are about halfway through their 98-day shoot, which is currently taking place in Paris. If Besson’s filmography is any indication, he has never had much difficulty in the outrageous and imaginative. This carries over to working on a blue screen-heavy set, which Besson claims to have little difficulty with.

“When I started to write this at 13 years old, I was living in the country of cheese, and I wanted to make movies. But when I open my windows I see cows, so believe me, that pushes your imagination. Because you want to escape. I start to read Valerian when I was 10. At the time there was no Internet; there wasn’t even a TV at home. So I read and just had my imagination. So when I look at bluescreen, I see everything. My imagination is very comfortable with bluescreen.”

As a longtime reader of the comic, this is a labor of love for Besson. He went on to talk about how much the source material meant to him.

“Well, the system at the time was two pages a week. As kids we were so excited. Can you imagine today? We can’t even wait two seconds for the next thing. I was sci-fi which was pretty rare in the early 70s. And it was a guy and a girl, and there weren’t many female heroines at the time. So the first girl I fall in love with, when I was 10, was Laureline. She’s a tough cookie. And she doesn’t say ‘Yes, yes, yes’ to Valerian all the time. I loved that about her.”

Considering how long Besson has been a reader, one may wonder why it took him so long to adapt the comic to film.

“I cansay this. Jean-Claude Mézieres, who was the father of Valerian, he worked on Fifth Element for a year, and he was telling me all the time, “Why you don’t make the film?” And I always answered, “We cannot.” There are 10 or 12 human characters, and the others are all aliens. So the technique is not there. We had to wait for Avatar.

I saw Avatar and threw my script for Valerian in the garbage. [Laughs.] I was inspired by James Cameron. He invited me on the set of Avatar. And I asked him questions and he was very open and very sweet. He was sharing with other directors. He helped other people like me to progress.”

On the appeal of the film, and writing the script:

“I allowed myself much more freedom. I centered the story to make it more real, more human. If you don’t like sci-fi, I want you to still like Valerian. And the other part was: Let’s try to do everything, before someone tells me its impossible. Let’s have the imagination go to the limit. And let’s be so super complicated, with aliens and robots and all this, but to make it look easy like a dance. You watch the thing, and it’s fluid and funny and wild. It’s not deep and complicated. It’s ultra sophisticated to do, but it looks easy. Like a cocktail where you don’t even taste the alcohol [laughs].”

On Besson’s approach to creating a good villain in this film.

“The big difference between this and the Marvel pattern is that with Marvel you know after five minutes who’s the villain. They do films that are super well made, but this pattern bothered me a little bit. What’s new here is we have two agents, and over the course of one film, it’s a police investigation, in fact. So you don’t know who’s exactly bad until the end, because it’s an investigation. That’s why I can’t talk too much. But it’s a real story. That’s what I love about it.”

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS stars Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, John Goodman, Herbie Hancock, and Kris Wu. It hits theaters on July 21, 2017.

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Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.