At 180-million-dollars, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is believed to be the most expensive independent film ever made.
Set in the 28th century—Alpha is an ever-expanding metropolis, which is home to species from a-thousand planets.
It includes the submerged south, the northern gaseous lands, and to the east, the IT, finance and banking centre.
But as a dark force threatens it’s peaceful existence, special agents Valerian and Laureline, who maintain order in the western human territories, are sent to investigate.
Directed by Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on the French sci-fi comics series ‘Valerian and Laureline’ which began life in the 1960s.
It was written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean Claude Mezieres, seen here on-set with Dane DeHaan who takes the title role of Valerian.
DEHAAN: “Did you ever think you’d get turned into a movie?”
MEZIERES: “No, except when I started working with Luc on ‘The Fifth Element’ we talked about that”
In 1997 ’The Fifth Element’ was the most expensive French film ever made, at 100-million-dollars.
Again it was another film inspired by a comic, but Besson says that in the late 90s, when he made the film, the technology to do ‘Valerian…’ wasn’t there yet…that “it was impossible”.
Then came ‘Avatar’ in 2009.
And as Besson puts it, “‘Avatar’ made everything possible”…
‘Avatar’ being a movie that revolutionised cinematic technology, and won three Oscars including Best Visual Effects.
Once again Besson has a strong female lead in ‘Valerian…’ with Cara Delevingne in the role of Laureline.
Previous heroines have included Michelle Yeoh’s Aung San Suu Kyi in 2011’s ’The Lady’, Milla Jovovich’s LeeLoo in ’The Fifth Element’, and Joan of Arc in 1999’s ‘The Messenger’.
But Besson says that Laureline shows a different kind of strength:
BESSON: “Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s leader is strong in her own way and Joan of Arc is fighting with the sword, which is not Aung San Suu Kyi at all. But she’s also fighting with her femininity. And then Leeloo is the supreme being so it’s also something different—she has all the power. Laureline is a kind of like normal girl. She’s a cop. If we do the film today it will be ‘Starchy and Hutch’ you know, and she will play Hutch.”
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was produced by EuropaCorp, a company which Besson co-founded in 2000.
To date, the company’s best performing movie at the U.S. box office was 2009’s ‘Taken’ which took 225-million-dollars worldwide.
But following poor performance from 2016’s slate of films, which included ‘Nine Lives’, ‘Shut in’ and ‘The Circle’, EuropaCorp is hoping to establish ’Valerian…’ as a flagship franchise.