Better Than Star Wars?

Could something better than the Star Wars saga be coming to theatres July 21? I'm not insisting that something better is on the rise; however, something with the potential to make a huge footprint in sci-fi cinema history is coming to the silver screen in the near future. 

The up and coming film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) – which I will hereafter refer to as "Valerian" for brevity's sake – is a screen adaptation of a 1960s French sci-fi comic series titled "Valérian et Laureline.” At its base level, the series revolves around a pair of space agents who cruise around the universe and solve oodles of detestable crimes. 

The series is even rumored to have inspired and the Star Wars saga James Cameron’s Avatar (2009). Director Luc Besson, known for his films The Fifth Element (1997) and Lucy (2014), dreamt of a movie adaptation ever since he read the first comic at 10 years old. The film has been a long time coming – Besson's early vision for “Valerian” was impossible to achieve because of the technology available at the time. 

But now, in the age of bluescreen and FX (CGI visuals), Besson could finally make that vision a reality.  It was during the production period of James Cameron's Avatar that Besson discovered his ambitions for Valerian were actually attainable. Cameron invited Besson to the set, which in turn exposed Besson to the new possibilities within the cinematic world. Fast-forward to 2014 - the early production stages of Valerian. Besson started with 6,000 designers from around the world and whittled them down to a select five. 

These five, along with costume designer Olivier Bériot, worked for a straight year on world design, costumes, and alien concepts. Besson isn't backing out on FX either. According to Entertainment Weekly, Valerian will feature 2,400 bluescreen shots. Many directors consider filming with bluescreen an arduous, brain-taxing challenge; however, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Besson said the following: "When I look at bluescreen, I see everything. My imagination is very comfortable with bluescreen." 

As if things couldn't get more complicated and visually challenging, only 12 to 18 human characters will physically appear in the film (the rest will be CGI robots or aliens). Speaking of characters, let's take a look at the cast. Valerian is played by Dane DeHaan. Audiences may remember DeHaan from his role as Harry Osborne in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) as well as his recent role in the psychological thriller A Cure for Wellness (2017). Co Starring in the role of Laureline is fashion model and actress Cara Delevingne, known for her respective performances both in Paper Towns (2015) as Margo and in Suicide Squad (2016) as Enchantress.  

In addition to these two, Besson is bringing in big-names for supporting roles – including 8-time Grammy winner Rihanna as well as long-time actor John Goodman, primarily known for his work in The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother Where Art Thou (2000), and Monsters Inc. (2001). With a production budget of $180 million, Valerian is going to need a monstrous box office profit. 

Just as Besson took a risk in making a high dollar film, perhaps us college students should take a risk and spend what little money we can glean from our wallets on seeing a film that may soon become a staple in sci-fi cinema history. When we’re all old and have grand children, we can brag to them about how we saw the original Valerian on an IMAX screen in the summer of 2017. Plus, what better way is there to beat the July heat?