Ever since watching Luc Besson’s amazing movie The Fifth Element twenty years ago, I’ve been waiting patiently for him to make to another crazy large-scale science-fiction movie. Even before visual effects went into hyperdrive, Besson was able to take us to new worlds, create innovative characters never seen on movie screens, and craft action set pieces like no other. So when Besson announced that he was going to helm Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and that he would have access to modern VFX and a big enough budget to bring his wildest ideas to life, you could say I was kind of excited.
Thankfully, while it’s taken a long time to bring his dream to life (he first fell in love with the comic when he was 12 years old) it was well worth the wait as Valerian is one of my favorite films of the year. Loaded with insane visual effects, great chemistry between Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, and action set pieces like you’ve never seen, Valerian is the type of film that will take you back to when you first fell in love with going to the movies.
With Valerian now available on Blu-ray and VOD, I recently sat down with the busy director for an exclusive interview. He talked about what he’s excited for people to see on the Blu-ray, some of the cool Easter eggs in the Big Market action set piece including a nod to The Fifth Element, if he’d ever consider doing Valerian sequels as animated movies, the lower box office numbers this year and if he thinks this is an anomaly or the beginning of a trend, his thoughts on Netflix and streaming content, the status of Valerian sequels and if they might be cheaper than the first film, and a lot more. Check out what he had to say below and make sure to pick up Valerian this holiday season.
Collider: You know how much I love this movie. Seeing the Blu-ray special features really informed me as to how much was being created in the computers and how much was just not there in real life. And when you see the finished film it’s crazy. How did you pull this off? Because there’s so much blue screen and yet it looks so real.
LUC BESSON: I think you have to go the only way… is little pieces by little pieces, layers by layers. You have to work the background, you have to work left, you have to work right, you have to work each category first, one by one. And then hoping that at the end of the puzzle will match. But you cannot have… you can’t embrace it once. In fact the designers were designing like a view of the market, for example, and that’s where we want to be at the end. But then after that you have to take the elements one by one and work on it.
For example, in the big market there’s a million shops. So for many weeks the designer just made drawings of the facade of a shop, you know, just like the facade. We have three, four hundred of them, and then they can choose. This one next to this one, next to this one, and then you we create the market like this. But you need to… then when you resolve this problem you talk about the light, “How the light is in the other world? What kind of thing? Okay put some string on the roof to see how it’s going. Or some tissue.” And then you have the good light okay, now we have the good light. The ground, how are we going to make the ground? So you really go one by one, in fact.
What are you excited for fans to see on the Blu-ray?
BESSON: The details, I think, it’s…a lot of people, when they watch it the first time, if they have seen it only one time, they can’t take everything, it’s impossible. The film is… I know it now, people are just like [makes explosion noise] a kind of blast of images and feelings. And then some people get even, not lost, but confused about the thing because there it’s too much. The DVD is a great opportunity to, now they know the story, they can see the visuals and see, really, the emotion of the actors and everything. So, I think that the second vision is really the best.
Is there places, because…
BESSON: I have the same trouble. I remember that when I was sixteen I’d seen Star Wars. When the film finished, I couldn’t even remember the beginning. There’s so much things, like new characters and in every way, I was lost. And I think I liked it the first time but I was in shock, and I loved it the second time. You know, you need to you need two to at least start to really get in.
I’ll be honest, when I saw Valerian, I had the same reaction seeing Blade Runner 2049, where these were both worlds I wanted to get lost in and I immediately went to go see it again because the level of detail. They’re just tremendous. I’m curious if there are certain shots you would suggest people hitting pause on, on the Blu-ray, to see just how much detail is there.
BESSON: Oh, the big market, for sure. You can go frame by frame. There’s hundreds and hundreds of aliens that you see sometimes for a second and they’re still there. There’s some tricks in it, in the big market there’s seven of them. You will see Korben Dallas, you will see…
Oh for real?
BESSON: Yeah you will see the cab. There’s a couple of alien that you will remember, you know…
So you’re saying, in the big market sequence there are seven Easter eggs?
I did not know…
BESSON: Not put by me.
By the animation team?
BESSON: Yeah. They told me there’s seven. I find five of them there are still two that I don’t know where there are.
Is Korben Dallas easy to find or is it hard?
BESSON: It’s his name.
Oh okay, I’ve got it.
BESSON: His name is somewhere.
I’m now I’m very curious where these Easter eggs are. Have you said these online or no?
So, it’s after the movie is out or maybe the Blu-ray down the road.
BESSON: No, I think I talked once or twice about it but, no there’s seven of them, but I find only five.
Are they in like a single frame or is it where you’ll see it for a few seconds?
BESSON: No, no you’ll see it for a few frames, not just like one frame.
As you know, the movie did okay at the worldwide box office, I’m really hopeful that the Blu-ray is going to do spectacular, I want to see more in this world. I know you’ve written the scripts for two and three. The whole time I’ve been wondering, is it possible to make these sequels as animation? Is that even something that you’ve considered or…
It would only be live action?
BESSON: Yeah, it would be live action.