It’s hard to know when the Geek Renaissance began. Superhero movies certainly received a big boost when Spider-Man came out in 2002, but many trace that movie’s success back to 2000’s X-Men, which possibly revamped the genre. In 2001, nerds rejoiced at Fellowship of the Ring, which was every Dungeons and Dragons player’s dream film — a movie that got the genre right, and received widespread acclaim. Perhaps the Geek Renaissance goes even further back, to 1999, when The Phantom Menace re-ignited the movie future of the Star Wars franchise while still somehow being overshadowed by another fan-friendly legend, The Matrix.
Whenever the wave of these geektastic movies really began, there’s probably no better time for them than right now. Kevin Feige has the Marvel ship pointed in the right direction at full speed. Uber-geek Joss Whedon has taken over Justice League. There are Star Wars movies coming out every year. Even video games are getting in on the act, with both Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed coming out relatively recently. The point is, it’s an incredible time to be a superfan, and superfan creators are getting in on the act, bringing their dreams to life. For evidence of this, I present to you Luc Besson.
You’ll remember Luc Besson best by the list of films he’s created: Lucy, The Professional, Fifth Element, and more. Bouyed by the success of comic book films, the French filmmaker has returned to his roots, a comic book beloved by him in his childhood, Valerian and Laureline. His adaptation, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, comes out this week. Though the movie itself is receiving decent reviews early (at the time of this article’s writing, it sits at 72% on Rotten Tomatoes), many in the media (our editor included) have predicted that the movie will flop. This wouldn’t be a surprise, as Besson’s other sci-fi film, Fifth Element, only debuted to $17 million with a lifetime domestic cume of $63 million. That hasn’t stopped the movie from reaching cult-favorite status, however, and Luc Besson is counting on Valerian to at least reach that level, if not much, much higher.
Luc Besson is quintessentially French. He films in France as often as possible, can often be read spouting off about French politics on social media, and has even started a free film school on the banks of the River Seine. The school, Cite du Cinema, receives thousands of applicants every year, but only about 60 are accepted. Students learn to create movies under Besson and his hand-picked teachers, and they even help him create his movies (students helped him create an 18-minute action scene in Valerian as part of their curriculum). Because the school is free, it makes its money from providing a space for French and other European film productions, and from Besson’s own films’ success, so the school needs Valerian to be a hit.
Luc Besson himself seems confident in the movie. Speaking to Nerdist, Besson said that he’d “finished [Valerian 2] already and I’m writing the number 3. I don’t know if we will do it, because it’s not up to me. It’s up to the audience if they like it.” It seems Besson’s one of the world’s most successful writers of fan scripts, because he admits that friends have cautioned him from moving forward with the scripting process. Despite this, he writes them “for myself,” he says, simply because he enjoys them.
If we’re going to see these scripts come to fruition, and if Cite du Cinema is going to keep being a French film power house and school, Luc Besson needs Valerian to do well. Are you planning on seeing this movie? Personally, it’s the movie I’ve looked forward to the most this summer, and I’m hoping for more of that weird vibe Fifth Element had in spades. Hit me up on Twitter at @LRM_Brian or comment in the section below.
Don’t forget to share this post on your Facebook wall and with your Twitter followers! Just hit the buttons on the top of this page.