valerian

Reaction and Interviews

Valerian looks incredible. This could be the antidote to many of today’s bland-looking blockbusters, and seems to be the brightest, most colorful big-budget film since Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m aware the French comic on which this film is based pre-dates Guardians comics, but I noticed a number of similarities between the films: the reveal of Alpha Station here was reminiscent of the reveal of Guardians’ space station Knowhere, Valerian and Laureline are literally referred to as “guardians of our future” in the trailer, and the two movies share a splashy, vibrant look with a sense that every inch of the frame contains an area waiting to be explored.

I asked Silla whether she and Besson kept track of what their contemporaries in the blockbuster filmmaking realm were doing, or if they worked in a more focused way in which they stayed in their own lane and only worried about their own product.

“We were really doing our own thing,” she told me. “The source material was here since 1970, it’s way before everyone. Going into that world, it was all there. Plus, Luc’s crazy mind and his vision of things just came out like that.”

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As for the vivid color palette, she again cited the original source material as inspiration. “A lot of that was already in the comic book,” she said. “It’s very colorful. Personally, I’m not crazy about the sci-fi that is really gray, that you can’t really relate to. I love that it can be fun and adventurous.” From what I’ve seen, this movie couldn’t be further from the bleak, mechanized sci-fi futurism we often see in films like this, and it feels like the blockbuster landscape is about to get a much-needed injection of fun.

As an aside, I wanted to mention something else that I noticed right at the very beginning of the trailer. It opens with a familiar but unexpected sound: the iconic drum beat from the Terminator theme song. The rest of the music doesn’t bear any notable similarities to that score, but I’m convinced it’s not a coincidence. I’m sure the marketing team wouldn’t mind if audiences associated this movie with James Cameron’s classic – subconsciously or otherwise.

But the marketing is something Besson himself doesn’t control. When I asked him what his involvement was in cutting or overseeing this trailer, he replied, “None, because it’s too – I don’t know how to do a trailer. We have to show stuff, tell the story, it’s too complicated. I can do a trailer, but it’s two hours.” But he “loves” this trailer, and especially appreciates the fact that it doesn’t give too much away.

“I’m a little fed up with films where, after 20 minutes, you know who is the villain, what’s the plot – you basically know the entire film. So…[in this movie] the villain is not the villain we think, and the evil is not the evil we think. It takes a lot of time – you follow the film because you want to know exactly what happens. Lots of people are lying in the film, and they have to figure out. It reminds me of a story where someone says, ‘Oh, they have weapons of mass destruction,’ and we arrive there, and there’s none. It reminds of that a little bit.”

It’s interesting that Besson alluded to early 2000s American politics in that answer, because one of the first things to cross my mind when watching this trailer – which, again, focuses on an imminent threat looking to destroy a society’s collection of science and knowledge – was to the parallels with our current administration. Like we’ve said before: the age of politically aware blockbusters is upon us. Moving on…

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The new trailer also highlights some of Laureline’s ass-kicking abilities, and Delevingne told me about the great admiration she has for her character:

“She’s extremely hard-working, determined, skilled at what she does. She never gives up. She’s studied everything, her knowledge about aliens and the spaceship and everything is beyond [anyone else’s]…and also, she picks up and prods Valerian along. She makes him better. That partnership is incredible, but her role is very beautiful. She’s an incredible woman.”

Laureline certainly looks like a heroine who’s capable of holding her own, and after seeing her and Valerian rocket their way through this bizarre world, I was curious about what the film’s biggest action scene would be. Silla hinted at it and explained how difficult it was to pull off, considering the overwhelming amount of visual effects needed to complete it:

“There’s one action scene that was really long and complicated to do because it was all blue screen, and that was the big market sequence. [On set] there was just a stick that was supposed to represent something, and everything was created around it, so that was a lot to do. That’s in the big market going into the canyon, and when you see the movie, there’s a huge chase within the market, and most of it was blue screen. We had just had the ground, the sand, and the rest of it was blue, so that was pretty challenging to do.”

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While much the film was shot against blue screens, there was one major set that was built practically: the inside of the Intruder, Valerian and Laureline’s spaceship. Delevingne gushed about how cool it was to be able to walk around that entire ship and see the craftsmanship and precision that went into building it. The actress hasn’t seen the finished version of the film, but she’s still in shock that she’s even in this movie at all. When I mentioned how this looks like the biggest project she’s ever been a part of, she replied:

“For sure, 100%. From the beginning, it’s just been crazy because it’s still shocking to me that it’s happening. Even now, watching this trailer, I’m like, ‘That’s me! Oh my God, you’re Luc Besson! Oh my God! What the fuck is going on?'”

It sounds like all of us are going to be wondering “what the fuck is going on” while we’re watching this movie, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will hit theaters on July 21, 2017. To hear more from Besson about this film, be sure to read Peter’s interview with him from the editing bay.

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