Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets on Thursday wowed the audience at the San Diego Convention Center’s Hall H as Luc Besson, the iconic filmmaker behind The Fifth Element and The Professional, made his first pilgrimage to Comic-Con.
The panel took place after the politicized Snowden panel with Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley and at least a third of the crowd left. But those who stayed were rewarded with eye-popping footage of a sci-fi adventure the likes of which hasn’t been made in years.
The movie is an adaptation of popular French graphic novel series and stars Dane DeHaan as the space hero and Cara Delevingne as his partner. The comic is not well-known outside of Europe and the pic opens exactly one year from today … against Christopher Nolan’s World War I epic Dunkirk, something Besson is keenly aware of.
The filmmaker compared the impending box-office showdown to a race in which he would be competing with sprinting legend Usain Bolt. Besson knows he will lose but he wants to lose with honor, he told the Comic-Con crowd.
“You will feel my breath on your neck,” was his message to Nolan.
And that’s because Besson knows that he has something unique on his hands.
Before showing his reel, the filmmaker received the Inkpot Award for his contribution to the genre world from Comic-Con’s programming director Eddie Ibrahim. Besson left the award on the podium and told the crowd, “You can tell me after the seven minutes [of footage] if I deserve it.”
Then came the reel: scenes of alien worlds, heroes in cool armored costumes, repartee between Valerian and Laureline, a man controlling a machine gun via a cybernetic helmet, a chase through multiple environments.
After it was over, much of the crowd was on its feet.
“Can I take it?” Besson asked, pointing to the Inkpot. The crowd roared its approval.
DeHaan and Delevingne were on hand for the panel, with DeHaan describing his character as one of wearing “this armor that he wants people to think he’s the coolest and the greatest.”
DeHaan also offered a peek into his acting process on this film, contrasting it to some of his other work, such as Kill Your Darlings, the indie he starred in opposite Daniel Radcliffe.
“For this movie, a thing I did was working out, every morning, getting myself into a Valerian attitude,” he said. “And that would not work for a film like [Kill Your Darlings]. It’s about finding a way into the character.”
One of Besson’s landmark works was 1997’s The Fifth Element, the sci-fi action thriller starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich. The movie did OK upon its initial release but gained a large following over time.
“Twenty years ago I was [considered] weird,” said the filmmaker. “And 20 years later, the world has gotten as weird as me.” His new film may do better, he said.
Besson also said that while Fifth Element had about 200 shots of visual effect, Valerian has over 2,700.