One of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood, albeit one that casual moviegoers may not know by name, Luc Besson has written, directed, and/or produced several fan-favorite box office smashes - all across a wide variety of genres. Among his box office credits, Besson has in one way or another been responsible for bringing The Fifth Element, Taken, Transporter, and Lucy to the big screen - to name only a small few. However, after twenty years making movies, the filmmaker is finally set to bring his dream-project to fans - a big budget adaptation of the french comic book series Valérian and Laureline, titled: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
For months, fans have been left with only fleeting set photos and official images to judge whether the filmmaker was on the right track with Valerian - Besson showed up at Comic-Con 2016 with a sneak peek look (of largely unfinished scenes). Initial response was overwhelmingly positive - leading many fans to wonder if Besson might actually be able to deliver a space opera experience that's even bigger and more memorable than The Fifth Element - a task that the director, himself, only recently thought possible.
In an interview with us at Comic-Con, Besson reiterated he's been a fan of Valérian and Laureline since he was 10 years old - and that, for many years, he felt a faithful adaptation of the property would be "impossible." Given the colorful locales, over-the-top science fiction action, and countless alien inhabitants in the Valerian universe, Besson struggled to imagine how any film studio would back such an ambitious and potentially expensive project - until the filmmaker saw James Cameron's Avatar.
According to Besson:
I honestly, deeply love [the books], I love Valérian and Laureline, I love the couple. The were with me for 10 to 20 years, crossing over time and school. I'm attached to them. I always dreamed to do it. But for a long time, I thought it would be impossible to do. Too many aliens, just impossible. Then Avatar came, and suddenly, we start to think, "okay," thanks to Jim, now we can do it.
Judging by the footage that was shown (which included several different alien environments and strange creatures), it's easy to understand why Besson might have been reluctant to adapt something he cares about so much, without the tools necessary to do it right. Still, it should be encouraging to fans of the comic series to hear Besson waited as long as he did - instead of scrambling to get the project going years back, just to fulfill a personal passion.
Anyone who has (or will) see footage from the film will undoubtedly be able to see ways in which Besson has been inspired by Avatar - especially in terms of colorful world-building. Normally, stating that a decade-old movie served as inspiration might not necessarily get people excited but where Avatar laid a foundation for Valerian, Besson appears to have made good use of the intervening time and modern special effect resources to deliver a science-fiction adventure that raises the bar, not just follows in James Cameron's footsteps.
The filmmaker further suggested now is the right time, not just because of visual effects, but also because Valerian is a reflection of modern society - a place where people of different races and backgrounds must navigate personal tensions and work together, exchanging science, commerce, and beliefs in order to co-exist. No small task - especially when you're talking about a thousand planets (not just our own).
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is set for release on July 21, 2017.