Comic book adaptations, especially those focused on superpowered heroes and villains, have risen in popularity over the last decade, helped along by the massive success of films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, and Warner Bros’ burgeoning DC Comics Extended Universe. But, there have been superhero series that have failed to launch, like Fox’s Fantastic Four in 2015 and Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man that stalled after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to meet expectations both critically and commercially.
Still, the popularity of comic book franchises has led to the diversification of the genre, allowing for more atypical adaptations to be made – like Fox’s Deadpool and Logan – as well as films based on lesser known non-superhero properties. One such comic adaptation coming to life this year is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets from director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element). It stars Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as the titular intergalactic agent Valerian and Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad) as his partner, Laureline. Now, DeHaan discusses how Valerian differs from his previous comic book film experience.
At a Valerian trailer premiere event hosted by U.S. distributing studio STX in New York City this week, Screen Rant had a chance to speak with DeHaan about his upcoming film. When asked how Valerian fits into the current boom of comic book movies since it’s based on a French property, DeHaan said:
It’s a movie based on a comic book, so I guess that would make it a comic book movie but I think what’s unique about it is not just that it’s French but that it’s not controlled by an American studio. So, making a movie like Spider-Man, it’s almost like making a movie by committee and there’s 10 people giving their opinion at all times and there’s something about this movie that I think is truly like unfiltered Luc — nobody’s telling Luc what to do except for Luc and he has such a unique style. I don’t think you would even be able to achieve that within the American studio system and I think that’s one thing unique about [this movie].
Arguably, one of the biggest criticisms raised about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the wake of its theatrical release was the film’s focus on launching a franchise rather than working as a standalone entry in the larger – then, still burgeoning – series. Certainly, as DeHaan indicates, the film suffered from too many cooks in the kitchen, leading Sony to scrap their sequel plans in order to strike a deal with Marvel Studios so that a new version of Spider-Man (now played by Tom Holland) could be introduced in the MCU. It may have all worked out for the best – at least, for the fans – since Spider-Man and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) will next be seen together in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but those who enjoyed Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker or DeHaan’s Harry Osborn were surely disappointed.
Still, an argument can be made that American studios have learned in recent years that leaving control up to the writers and directors of comic book movies can be lucrative. Fox in particular saw massive success when Deadpool hit theaters and the Merc with a Mouth’s long in development solo outing broke records for the studio’s X-Men franchise and R-rated movies in general. Of course, Valerian is based on a much lesser known comic book property – at least, in the United States – and Besson’s movies have historically performed markedly better in international markets than domestically. So, it remains to be seen whether Valerian will be a hit at the box office, but the fact that Besson was allowed to take the lead in its creation should provide moviegoers with a unique brand of comic book movie when it hits theaters this summer.