Besson’s “Valerian” Is His “True Fifth Element”

One of Luc Besson’s films that western audiences embraced the most was his 1997 sci-fi feature “The Fifth Element”. The trippy “Star Wars-on-LSD” Bruce Willis-led film remains a highly enjoyable watch, but Besson tells reporters that it was essentially practice and his upcoming “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” film is the real attempt.

Appearing at New York Comic Con where he screened seven minutes of unfinished footage from the film for select media, he says the idea of adapting the film was raised by the original comic’s artist and co-creator Jean-Claude Meziers years ago – but it’s only now that audiences are willing to embrace it. He tells Heat Vision:

“We met on The Fifth Element, when I called him and asked him to participate. He was the one who said to me, ‘why don’t you do Valerian instead of this f—ing Fifth Element?’ At the time, to be honest, you couldn’t make it. There’s, like, five or six [humans], all the rest were aliens. You really had to get to Avatar, and then think, oh, now imagination is the limit. Now we can do everything.”

Meziers was also on hand for the interview and says he’s happy with what he’s seen of the big screen adaptation so far, and he loves that Besson stayed true to his vision whilst also improvising:

“If the comic book is the storyboard of the film, there’s no need to make the film…What I enjoy is not, ‘I see that piece! That’s what I drew!’ For me, it’s the feeling that I’m not betrayed… It’s very important to me that the base is the same, except Luc made a film, of course. I think a good comic book should bring ideas to its readers, and this is an excellent surprise. This is the first time I’ve seen finished sequences, and [Besson] improvised on the base like a musician.”

Besson says that though ‘The Ambassadors of Shadows’ story inspired the film, they took elements from about five or six different albums to create the movie. He also says that thanks to technology, production on “Valerian” is completely different to that on “The Fifth Element”:

“Fifth Element was the last film done with old-fashioned special effects; if I had a green screen, I’d have to lock my camera in one place, and they’d put dots on the screen for hours. It was a nightmare. And then six hours later, digital arrived and basically, you can put your camera on your shoulder and they say, ‘Oh, we can do it later.’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’ I was really frustrated when The Fifth Element came out. I always said to myself, you will avenge one day, and now I avenge.”

ILM, Weta and Rodeo are helping out with the visual effects with a total of 2,734 SFX shots in the film. Besson breaks down who is doing what:

“We basically have three portions – we gave to ILM what looks better for them, and then Weta, and then Rodeo, a third company. ILM is doing the first 25 minutes; it’s a big scene in a big market that’s in a double world. It’s very complicated to explain, and every easy to watch! Weta did all the rest, most of it in Alpha – a space station that’s 18 miles long – and Rodeo is doing all the space ships and everything technical. Everyone was very positive, and I couldn’t believe it was just my talent, but I discovered a month ago – it’s because they know they’ll be shown next to each other in the same film, and there’s a little, smart competition. It’s good news for me.”

Besson confirms that the first teaser trailer for the film will go online next month. The film itself hits cinemas on July 21st 2017.