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Luc Besson's Valerian with Dane DeHaan footage reveal (Comic Con 2016)

07.21.2016

Like many of you, I've been waiting for director Luc Besson to return to the sci-fi genre ever since THE FIFTH ELEMENT came out in 1997. Aside from LEON, Besson has take a bit of a backseat in the director's chair (although LUCY was a promising, yet weird effort) and strayed away from the cool, inventive, and wacky sci-fi action. Now, Besson is making his way back after nearly 20 years away from the genre with VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, an adaptation of the French comic book series Valérian and Laureline and today I got a sneak peek at some scenes and a short sizzle reel from the film. The verdict? In short, this is absolutely the kind of film we've all been waiting for Besson to make since THE FIFTH ELEMENT. More on that below, but first here are the highlights of what I saw.

SCENE 1: We see Dane DeHann, wearing the armored suit that's been in all the promo shots thus far, running down some worn, industrial hallways, while being guided from a remote voice. He comes to a stopping point (a wall) and tells the guide that he can't get through as there's a wall there. Very simple scene (but a good set-up for what's revealed in the sizzle).

SCENE 2: We see Cara Delavigne walking down a more clean "space style" hallway, with two men escorting here. She's wearing the same armored suit as DeHaan's character and at one point she see's a group of tiny, long-beaked aliens walking further down the hall. She stops, turns to the escorts and tells them that they should restrain her as she's very tempted to escape. They agree and start to put on cuffs, at which point she goes into ful on "LeeLoo" mode and kicks their asses in spectacular fashion. She takes one of their guns, approaches the long-beaked aliens down the hall and says, "We need to talk."

SCENE 3: We get a glimpse of DeHaan and Delavigne coming out of what appears to be a portal of some type, flying inside a cool-looking spacecraft, which appears to be their main mode of transport throughout the film. Delavigne is piloting a little rough, and DeHaan asks her to take it easy. Sheip taking off. "We're late," she says, before taking her hands off the controls, causing DeHaan to tell her she's a great driver and to please take control of the ship again. "You're the best driver in the entire universe," he tells her. Some fun banter and a good display of each respective character's personality (Delavigne obviously being the more rebellious one).

They then approach a planet and proceed to land. The ship flies over what appears to be a desert-like planet that has a bunch of protruding red rocks all over the place. It's a very visceral and vibrant feel throughout all of these clips and it's great to see. Much like THE FIFTH ELEMENT, the colors pop off the screen. This isn't STAR WARS, where each planet has a mostly singular feel (swamp, desert, ice); it has those elements, but with much more colorful environments, similar to AVATAR (minus the mo-cap characters).

SCENE 4: DeHaan enters a kind of space-set Red Light district, complete with all manner of sexy women in strange costumes. Very much in line with what you'd expect from a Luc Besson space-set Red Light Distrct. I'm sure you can imagine. We then see a surprise cameo from Ethan Hawke, playing a club owner wearing a cowboy hat, nose-to-ear piercings, and lots of eyeshadow. He's got a kind of flamboyant and wacky personality and is obviously having fun playing a less serious role for a change.  DeHaan's character says he's looking for something and Hawke leads him into his club, sitting him down on a chair and directing him to the stage. A woman's legs come into frame, straddling a chair as DeHaan watches on. The camera zooms in on her as she turns around and...BOOM...it's Rihanna. Yet another surprise cameo. No word on who she is playing, but she somehow seems like a perfect fit for a Luc Besson space adventure.

SCENE 5: Dane and Cara exit their ship on the sand planet, wearing touristy gear and meeting up with some mercenary types with goofy gear. One of them is wearing a hat that reminded me of the one the burglar wore in THE FIFTH ELEMENT when he tried to rob Bruce Willis. Not sure if it's intentional, but there it is.  Lots of alien creatures here, good guys and bad. Everything is in harmony, much like Star Wars, in that there is no human vs. alien dynamic. We cut to an alien beast chasing DeHaan, Delavigne, and the mercenaries in a land rover type vehicle. They shoot at it with all manner of weapons, but are unable to stop it. Cara and Dane join in the shootout, but eventually escape from the moving vehicle when they call their ship over and leap onto the boarding deck, carrying a case of some sort, as the alien beast just barely misses biting them. A cool, fun action scene that, again, harkens back to the Besson of old that has been sorely missed.

We then jumped directly into a sizzle trailer. Lots of crazy creatures and locations, spacecraft of all types, various planets, etc. It's very much a universe-spanning adventure and feels exactly like the kind of Luc Besson film we wanted so badly after what he did with THE FIFTH ELEMENT. The sizzle ends with a really cool sequence, which takes us back to DeHann facing the wall and nowhere to go. He activates his suit and a mask covers his face. He then charges into the wall, busting through into another room. But, it doesn't stop there. He keeps charging from room to room and every room is like another universe of creatures and viscerally stunning visuals, almost like he's going through a kaleidescope of environments.

This looks very much like the Luc Besson movie we’ve been waiting for and I'm officially excited for it.

We spoke briefly with Besson afterwards, where he said that he's been stubbornly pursuing this project for years, having always been a fan of the comics. It was James Cameron's AVATAR that helped paved the way to get it made, as his biggest hurdle early on was being unsure if he could bring all those characters and settings to life with the technology and budget at the time. Although some of the footage has a somewhat videogame feel to it (in a good way!), Besson said he's "never played a video game in my life." He said that none of the effects are finished and that, even with all we saw, we haven't seen anything yet. Very cool.

Also of note, is that the film will take place over a 24 hour period and will be in multiple dimensions and time frames. It will be in 3D, but upconverted. Besson said that he doesn't like being constrained with using the clunky 3D cameras as it stifles his creativity, but he was very confident about the 3D aspect regardless. Given the footage, I can see why.

Lastly, I asked Besson if this was a one-and-done kind of film or if he'd be pursuing it as a series and he said he’d do ten more Valerian films if he could. He said the experience of making the film was great and he is exceptionally fond of DeHaan and Delavigne in these roles. So, if this one is a hit, there's a good chance Besson would be on board for more.

And that's it for VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS. Overall, I'm very impressed and excited as this is exactly the kind of film I've been waiting for Besson to make for decades. Fingers crossed it lives up to the hype, but at this point, VALERIAN is on my must-watch radar.

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS hits theaters on July 21, 2017.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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