Luc Besson explains why ‘Valerian’ is a bit unusual

By Rumy Doo

Acclaimed filmmaker of ‘Leon’ says his new sci-fi epic aims to make adults dream

  • Published : Aug 23, 2017 - 15:15
  • Updated : Aug 23, 2017 - 16:53
Iconic French director Luc Besson’s recent film “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” showcases his own brand of space adventure, but the epic sci-fi flick ultimately aims to deliver a message of diversity and humanity, the director says.

“I’m sorry to be so naive and not cynical, but I think if we put money first and humans second, we are all going to go to war and die,” said the acclaimed filmmaker, best known here for “Leon: The Professional” (1994), “The Fifth Element” (1997) and “Taxi” (1998), at a press conference at CGV Yongsan in Seoul, Tuesday.

“Valerian,” available in 3-D, is set in the 28th century in a universe where species from all corners of space have come together to build Alpha, a sort of galactic capital. They live in harmony there, exchanging knowledge and culture. Dane DeHaan stars as the space federation’s police agent Valerian, while Cara Delevingne plays fellow cop and partner Larueline. The two set out on a mission to retrieve a rare treasure, and uncover the secret behind the destruction of a planet and species.

Luc Besson speaks to reporters at CGV Yongsan in Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

“I met Dane and after a few minutes, I knew he would be Valerian.”

Besson said he made model-turned-actress Delevingne jump through various hoops for the role.

“She didn’t used (to act) so much before so I made her work. I tortured her, because I needed to know if she has something inside, something real. And I discovered she has a lot. She is a natural born actress.”

The endeavor was something Besson had been imagining for several years. But the $180 million project, brimming with worlds created with computer graphics, creatures and vehicle rides through space was not so simple to execute.

“The technology was ready after ‘Avatar,’ which made everything possible,” he said, referring to James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi that pioneered the use of new 3-D filming techniques.

Besson‘s “Valerian” is a remake of well-known French comics “Valerian and Laureline” from 1967 which influenced on future sci-fi stories, including the “Star Wars” series. In order to recreate and expand on the world of the comics, Besson toured the world and handpicked 12 designers.

“First year, I don’t even give them the script because I don’t want them to be limited. I’d say ‘28th century, let’s go, guys. Go everywhere.’ They came back with 6,000 drawings of the craziest things I’ve seen in my life -- the craziest creatures, spaceships, systems.”

Dane DeHann in "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" (Pancinema)

Cara Delevingne in "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" (Pancinema)

Besson describes “Valerian” as a “fun” film with humor and relatable characters.

“It’s not a huge drama where the hero lost his mother. It’s a fun film. ... By the way, the hero is a bit stupid and pretentious. So he’s like us. The real hero is the girl, as usual. Because in life, we all know that the woman is ruling the house.”

Most Hollywood sci-fi flicks these days tend to offer bleak depictions of our future world, Besson pointed out.

“The aliens are coming to destroy everything and aliens get punished. I’m not saying I’m against it, I’m reacting to it.”

“Valerian” presents a world where “all the aliens are friendly,” he said. “We can shake their hands. The villains are us, as usual.”

An ambitious opera of fantastical creatures and settings, “Valerian” hopes to stoke the imagination of adults.

“When we’re young we‘re able to dream. When you grow up you become more pragmatic, more cynical. ... So the film is about that. The film is unusual. It’s different because I wanted to remind adults (of) the power of dreaming. Even for adults I think the film is a good medic, a pill.”

Commercially, the high-budgeted film is shaping up to be a flop in North America and Europe, where it opened earlier.

“Valerian” is set to hit local theaters on Aug. 29.

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)