Star Wars: Episode VIII isn’t the only cosmic adventure full of fantastical extraterrestrials and distant planets that is going to be hitting theaters in 2017. Before Episode VIII director Rian Johnson takes moviegoers back to a galaxy far, far away, The Fifth Element and Lucy filmmaker Luc Besson returns to the sci-fi genre for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The latter is actually based on one of the Star Wars franchise’s predecessors and influences, in Valérian and Laureline: the comic book series that was created in 1967 by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières.
Valerian, which Besson both wrote and directed, follows the adventures of special operatives Valerian (The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Suicide Squad‘s Cara Delevingne), as the pair strive to maintain order throughout the universe. Clive Owen plays the duo’s commander, who puts Valerian and Laureline on a mission in the film that takes them to Alpha: a massive intergalactic city that is home to countless different humans and aliens – as well as individuals who aren’t so invested in the city’s ideals of peace and progress.
EuropaCorp has released screenshots from Valerian that showcase the glistening futuristic setting that is Alpha, along with some of the beings who reside there; ranging from non-humans like the Kortan Dahuk and the Doghan Daguis to the mysterious character that Rihanna is playing in the film. A proper trailer for Valerian is now online too and you can check it out, above.
If the trailer for Valerian makes the film look like the lovechild of The Fifth Element and Avatar to you, that’s not an accident. Besson has openly admitted that although he’s been working on a film adaptation of the original Valérian and Laureline comic books for decades, the version that’s coming to the big screen was only developed after the release of James Cameron’s game-changing 2009 sci-fi epic. The Valerian comic book co-creator Jean-Claude Mézières also did uncredited work as a concept designer/artist on The Fifth Element, further explaining the similarities in aesthetics and physical extraterrestrial/world designs between the two films.
This first trailer only includes a fraction of the seven minutes of Valerian footage that was screened – to much (literal) applause – for the general public and press at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con this past summer. The SDCC preview for the film, even more so than the trailer, suggests that Besson’s goal here is to serve up plenty of stylish visuals and sci-fi action/set pieces, but with a healthy helping of quirky wit and humor. What remains to be seen is if Valerian itself delivers on that promise and proves to be the spiritual successor to The Fifth Element – or if the film is highly-stylized, but rings somewhat hollow (as was arguably the case with something like Lucy).