French science-fiction hasn’t had too much luck with international cinematic releases: from the gloriously jumbled mess that was the Fifth Element, all the way to the recent toss-up that was Immortelle, French science fiction comic books hasn’t managed to stick with audiences. It could be the large concentration of nudity, the weird approach they take toward implementing religion in their stories or just their shaky morality play, but this latest adaptation might actually stand a chance…
To the unitiated, Valerian and Laureline was a French space opera comic book series, penned by Pierre Christin and inked by Jean-Claude Mézières, two old-school veterans of the European science fiction scene. The series follows the adventures of the titular characters atop their trusty FTL two-seater, XB27, as they reason with their enemies, have weird space battles and develop psychic superpowers that allow them to keep suns from getting snuffed out. In short, imagine the series as a mix between Star Wars and Doctor Who, only with a smidgeon less sense thrown into the narrative and a whole lot of contemporary political satire.
The movie is appropriately being directed by Luc Besson (the driving force behind the Fifth Element), which is kind of worrisome. Yes, Besson is known for creating elaborate, original worlds and impressive visual by virtue of being an outright mad bastard, but a lot of his stories tend to favor more the aspect of style, rather than substance. Man paints one heck of a pretty picture, but rarely manages to make it make sense, when he presents it to a larger audience. Cara Delevingne will be playing the role of Laureline, an appropriate feat, considering that she wielded most of the psychic superpowers in the series. Dane DeHaan will be joining her as Valerian, which seems eerily appropriate, considering the character’s underlying violent streak.
The cast also lists dramatic newcomer Rihanna, grim-and-gritty Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Rutger Hauer and Clive Owen as Commander Arün Filitt.
According to the official synopsis for the fim:
Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are special operatives for the government of the human territories charged with maintaining order throughout the universe. Valerian has more in mind than a professional relationship with his partner- blatantly chasing after her with propositions of romance. But his extensive history with women, and her traditional values, drive Laureline to continuously rebuff him.
Under directive from their Commander (Clive Owen), Valerian and Laureline embark on a mission to the breathtaking intergalactic city of Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis comprised of thousands of different species from all four corners of the universe. Alpha’s seventeen million inhabitants have converged over time, uniting their talents, technology and resources for the betterment of all. Unfortunately, not everyone on Alpha shares in these same objectives; in fact, unseen forces are at work, placing our race in great danger.
While we are pumped to see footage for the film shown for the first time ever in the MTV Movie Awards ceremony, we can’t help but worry: an adaptation of this kind of comic book is always risky business. Luc Besson is, once again, undertaking a huge project that is very much likely to fly over our heads, especially when you consider that a lot of the themes of the source material were about non-violent conflict resolutions and achieving harmony between the male and the female sexes of all races as a means to stopping intergalactic warfare. We hate to put you off this film, but if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you might be better off waiting for Episode VIII.
For the rest of you hardcore nerds, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets opens in theaters July 21, 2017.