French blockbuster producer/director Luc Besson has made fewer science fiction films than other genres, but when he has the results have been memorable. Despite only modest initial success worldwide, his 1997 space opera The Fifth Element is remembered as a fan favorite today. That success now will hopefully result in audiences being eager to check out his return to hard sci-fi with Valerian and The City of A Thousand Planets, an adaptation of the classic 1960s French graphic novel series that served as an inspiration to countless later properties -- including Star Wars.
With the film still deep in production, Besson has shared new images from the set -- offering audiences a further look at Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as the heroes, and a first look at Clive Owen in costume.
The original comic series, originally published and conventionally referred to as Valerian & Laureline, was a galaxy-spanning adventure centering on the exploits of two special operatives who enjoy a mutually combative yet flirtatious relationship. Valerian (DeHaan) is a self-impressed ladies' man whose charms are continuously rebuffed -- but only just so -- by his partner Laureline (Delevigne), seemingly the only woman who can refuse him... which of course only drives him to try more desperately. Together, they battle evil and defend peaceful people of the human territories throughout the galaxy. Besson's film adaptation is described as follows:
"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."
The new images, which were posted to Besson's Facebook page, also show off new shots of actors Kris Wu and Thalia Benson, along with some of the film's robot characters, as well as a good look at some of the outlandish costumes that will be on display. It also shows more clearly how much of the film is being created using blue screen and green screen techniques; an appropriate step considering the strange and exotic alien locales the original comics typically dropped its characters into -- though it's also clear that practical sets and detailed, elaborate costuming remains a core part of Besson's sci-fi aesthetic.
While it remains to be seen whether or not Valerian will have real blockbuster potential as a global franchise (the comics are not as well known outside France as they were at one point), it's entirely likely that the film will find favor with audiences still hungry for space action in-between Star Wars installments. If so, it wouldn't be the first time Besson has benefited from that proximity: The Fifth Element hit theaters just after the Special Editions of the original trilogy had finished their theatrical run.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is set for release on July 21, 2017.