NYCC: First Look at ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

Nick Nunziata

Filmmaker Luc Besson is back in large-scale sci-fi mode. His Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is making its presence known at New York Comic Con The movie adapts Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières beloved comics series Valérian and Laureline. Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, and Ethan Hawke star.

Valerian is the tale of two officers caught in the middle of a conspiracy that spans many dimensions. The comic never took root in the United States but has sold millions across the globe. In its pages lurk dozens of alien species, crazy ideas involving space and time, and plenty of humor. As a child, the comic struck a nerve with Besson. It was a bucket list project for him as a filmmaker and one he felt he couldn’t realize. Until Avatar came and changed the game, that is.

What is this thing?

Armed with a gigantic budget and the blessing of the creators the filmmaker has put together a brazen and pulpy love note to fun science fiction. There are no brooding heroes. The alien designs are colorful and weird and varied. If the six minutes of the film shown to journalists at New York Comic Con is an indicator, this may be a winner.

The artwork of the original is still fresh and charming all these years later.

The footage showcases the banter of the two leading characters, Valerian and Laureline. There’s a fun sexual tension between them. Valerian tries to win the heart of his more principled partner but she’ll have none of it. We see the two escaping from giant monsters, including one in a fun chase on and through vehicles. There’s a moment teased where Laureline encourages Valerian to walk through walls. There’s a trio of adorable duck-like aliens who each share 1/3rd of a brain. We were treated to space battles and sand battles. There are crazy moments where devices allow their wearer to see other dimensions. There are so many ideas at play here that it seems Besson is purging tons of creative demons.

Besson likens star Dane DeHaan to Leonardo DiCaprio at this stage in his career.

The real selling point

Ethan Hawke plays a space pimp. If that doesn’t guarantee a bought ticket what will? Rihanna plays a performer of some type whose origin may not be as it seems. As wacky as The Fifth Element was, this film looks to be even more so but in a real charming way. The footage is a lot of fun and even though the special effects are far from complete it looks fabulous. The most recent new genre efforts, whether John Carter or Jupiter Ascending, didn’t succeed. This film faces some similar obstacles but there’s something here. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is too fun and too unpretentious to ignore.

In early November we’ll see the first teaser, which Besson wasn’t involved in. He loves the way they crafted a trailer from his work and is giddy to share it. Considering the varied career the man has had, his enthusiasm should be contagious.

Nick Nunziata
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