Twenty years ago, visionary writer/director Luc Besson exhilarated sci-fi fans with his blazingly original, warmly sentimental and unapologetically bizarre space opera “The Fifth Element.” Now, he’s back, taking over Comic Con International in San Diego with the brain-melting first look at footage for his latest universe-trekking epic “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”
Based on the seminal 1960s French comic book series “Valerian and Laureline,” the film stars Dane DeHaan (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”) and Cara Delevingne (“Suicide Squad”) as the titular pair of spatio-temporal agents (think time-travel cops), tasked with protecting the universe from timeline paradoxes that could threaten existence itself.
SPINOFF was among the first to see footage from what’s sure to be one of the biggest, boldest blockbusters of 2017. We’ll have Comic Con interviews with the cast and director coming soon. But for now, check out our rundown on the preview Besson chose to share just six weeks after production wrapped.
Scene 141: A dark hallway, striped by cool light and ominous shadows. Corpses lie on the floor under clear plastic sheets. Valerian (DeHaan) enters in a helmet-less space suit studded with LED lights. He travels through a craggy cave, into the metal hallways–perhaps of a spaceship? Into his communicator, Valerian asks an offscreen Laureline where he needs to head. Taking in her instructions, he sighs with flat irritation, “That leads me straight into a wall.”
The clip cut off here. But the final sizzle reel climaxes by picking back up with Valerian and this line, and a special nod to the audience. “Come on, Valerian” Laureline taunts, “It’s Comic Con.”
“All right, let’s do this,” he growls. A helmet emerges mechanically from his spacesuit’s collar. Valerian bolts straight at the wall, barreling through. And instead of more hallway, he’s leaping through the wall into one bizarre environment after another. These — Besson later confirmed — are different dimensions, some red and angry, some blue and filled with strange bubbles, some filled with flowers. It’s like looking through a kinetic kaleidoscope. And Besson promises this is just the start of a 45-second run that’s sure to blow sci-fi fans away.
Scene 183: The second sequence focuses on Cara Delivigne’s Laureline, dressed in the busty armor that hit a few weeks back. She’s strolling down the hall of a sleek space station. But her casual nature is contrasted by two green-uniformed guards, flanking her shoulders. Ahead of her, three short, vermin-looking aliens pass by in an intersecting hallway. Tossing her head to the side with a smirk and a bit of Deliggne’s signature side-eye, Laureline taunts, “Don’t you think you should handcuff me?” The guards silently agree, rushing to cuff their apparent prisoner. But Laureline is too quick for them.
In the blink of an eye, she spins into full-fight mode, taking on both men in lighting-fast hand-to-hand combat. Before you can say, “Leeloo Dallas Multi-pass,” these dudly dudes are down, knocked out, handcuffed, eating Laureline’s dust. In the next shot, she steps in front of the aforementioned alien trio, aiming a gun at them, and stopping them in their tracks before stating simply, “We need to talk.”
Scene 51: A spaceship that bares a striking resemblance to the Millennium Falcon races through the cosmos. But settle down, “Star Wars” fans, the design of Han Solo’s iconic ship was actually cribbed long ago from the Valerian comics.
Cut to its interior: Laureline is driving a tad recklessly for brow-furrowed Valerian’s liking, and he tells her so. “You want to drive?” she asks, pulling her hands away from the control. Valerian begs her to take control of the joystick again. She obliges only when he grudgingly eats his words, and calls her the best pilot in the universe.
They land in a vibrant desert landscape, rich with orange hues. Think “Mad Max: Fury Road,” but almost cheerful. There, a motley crew of soldiers gather as the ship lands. Valerian and Laureline exit, and their official uniforms are replaced with absurd civilian clothes. They look more suited to go to Burning Man than a mission, and the soldiers say as much with a scowling reaction. Valerian shrugs, explaining they are supposed to be undercover as tourists. We’ll pick back up with this sequence later.
Scene 212: Valerian strolls through a sea of women, each decked out in a crazy costume of candy, flowers or metal. It’s like a Lady Gaga convention. A scantily clad woman in a fairy costume comes onto him, never losing pace on the flower-strewn swing she’s riding. A sign over his shoulder reads “GLAM CLUB.” As more and more lovely ladies proposition him, it becomes clear we’re in the midst of some other worldly red light district. Then, from behind iridescent beaded curtains emerges Ethan Hawke, dressed like some sort of futuristic cowboy, his clothes laces with LED lights, his leer suggesting sex and danger. They have brief exchange, where Hawke oozes with sleaze as he promises, “Whatever you want, I got it.” This lands Valerian in a burlesque setting. He’s alone. Then in the foreground, a pair of statuesque stems strut onto the stage.
Rihanna is revealed. She’s straddling a chair, rocking her real string of star tattoos and a precise forehead curl, as if she’s about to play Sally Bowles in a space-set version of “Cabaret.” Then the footage cuts cruelly to black.
Scene 101: Back to Laureline and Valerian in their tourist clothes, this time racing across the dessert on foot, chased by a bounding beast that looks like a festered and ferocious Pokemon. The soldiers from before are trying to delay the beast’s advance by heavy gunfire. The team piles frantically onto a van, but this extraterrestrial monster will not be deterred. It reaches them, and rips through the metal roof like it’s wet toilet paper. Guns blaze and Laureline and Valerian break through the front window of the speeding bus to make a life-or-death leap from it’s hood to the gaping cargo door of their ship. The actions slows to a crawl and cuts away before we heroes hit safety.
Then comes the sizzle reel. Apologies, fans, by my notes for this are nonsense. “Lots of settings” “candy colored madness” “so many aliens!” I’ll admit. I was overwhelmed. But I will tell you this: If you loved “The Fifth Element,” you’ll go mad for “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” opens July 21, 2017.
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