Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) expertly filters familiar film tropes into funhouse mirror versions of themselves. There aren’t many filmmakers who can play with clichés and somehow turn them on their head into something far more original. Case in point: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. On paper – you’ve probably seen this movie before – wisecracking heroes, shady government agents, huge CGI alien beasties, the “you’re the only ones who can save the world” line… But it’s in the details that Besson twists these stock placeholders.
Just take one shot from Valerian’s full trailer (which will be launching tomorrow) – it’s the familiar car moving in the foreground, while in the background we see the landmarks of a foreign alien planet. Think the shot in JJ Abrams‘ Star Trek where Kirk drives his motorcycle while in the background the Enterprise is constructed. Or the shot in the JJ Abrams’ Star Wars, where Rey drives her speeder in front of the remnants of a downed ship. In Besson’s hand, this oft-done shot becomes far richer than the norm – in the background even the rocks are painted different colors and the clouds are orange. There’s so much happening, you almost miss the car driving in the foreground of the shot.
And this new trailer is chock-full of these familiar yet twisted images. A drooling CGI dog monster, blue Na’vi-like aliens, mechanical orb like planets – all spun from the common to the downright bizarre. Besson played the new trailer twice for the crowd – and honestly, I still probably missed half of what was going on – a testament to Besson’s singular vision.
After the new trailer launch for Valerian, I (along with a few other journalists) spoke with Besson and star Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns) about the new trailer. In the following interview, the duo discusses working with Rihanna, the franchise potential for Valerian and competing opposite the big budget films of the summer. For the full interview, read below.
How do you feel about a trailer launch event for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets?
LUC BESSON: There are just so many competitors this summer. We have to scream that we exist and that we’re here. With Spider-Man, Planet of the Apes and all the big films… we’re brand new. It’s not a sequel. It’s not number seventeen.
You saved a lot of stuff from this trailer — Ethan Hawke for instance — Is it hard to figure out what to dole out in each of these trailers?
BESSON: No. To be honest I didn’t work on the trailer at all. I’m the worst. I’d show you one shot and then say ‘See you in July.’
Cara — what do you think of the new trailer?
CARA DELEVINGNE: I mean it was so weird. Every moment is like a ‘pinch me’ moment. I can’t believe this is real. I find it so strange.
How does the finished project compare to what you pictured on set? I assume it was mostly green screen…
DELEVINGNE: Blue screen. But the world that Luc pictured, that he described was exactly this… The amount of love and knowledge [he had] of this comic he literally translated into the movie. I honestly think the movie is going to blow my mind. Every time I see it, the visual effects completely blow my mind. It’s crazy. Obviously when you’re acting on set and you’re talking to a tennis ball, it’s like what the fuck is this, what’s going to happen, how is this going to turn into a twenty foot monster…
Do you both have a favorite part that was teased in the trailer?
BESSON: I love everything.
How do you describe working with Rihanna as an actress?
BESSON: The first thing – when I met her, I wanted to be sure that she wanted to be an actress. Her entourage said she wants to but I needed to hear it from her. You can’t take someone just because they want to try or they want to have fun. With this kind of film, you need someone who really wants to be serious about acting. And she was definitely serious about it and very low profile about it. The hard part was just to get her on set.
DELEVINGNE: On set, she was incredible. Just to watch her. I always said to [Rihanna] what an incredible actress she could be. She’s an amazing performer but as an actor you have to do it on screen [too].