‘Valerian’: Luc Besson on Creating an Interdimensional Action Scene

     July 12, 2017

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; there is no way this story could be told on the small screen. And while I could go on and on about the amazing creatures Besson designed for the film with his team of artists, or the dozens of breathtaking worlds, the one thing I really want to focus on is an action set piece called “Big Market.”

valerian-and-the-city-of-a-thousand-planets-posterIn the first third of the film, DeHaan and Delevingne have to reclaim something important from a black market seller. In most films, this is a pretty straight-forward assignment. But that’s not Luc Besson’s Valerian. In his world, the action takes place between dimensions with the audience constantly being shown both sides using visual effects that are perfectly designed. While I’ve seen thousands of action scenes in countless movies, I can honestly say the fifteen-minute “Big Market” action set piece in Valerian is worth the price of admission alone. And before you get nervous that this is the only highlight in the movie, trust me, it’s not. Valerian is loaded with action on countless worlds with tons of unique characters. It’s something you want to see on the biggest screen possible.

With Valerian opening July 21st in North America, I recently sat down with Luc Besson for an extended video interview. We talked about how he created the “Big Market” action set piece, how it was a challenge for people working on the film to understand what he was trying to do, his writing process, why his editor was cutting the film as they shot it, how he came up with the amazing opening of Valerian, and a lot more.

Check out what he had to say in the video above and below is exactly what we talked about followed by the official synopsis and some images.

Luc Besson:

  • The positive reaction to the film.
  • valerian-cara-delevingne-dane-dehaan

    Image via EuropaCorp, Lou Faulon

    The amazing and unique Big Market action set piece which takes place between dimensions. He talks about the challenges of bringing it to life and trying to make the people making the film understand what he was trying to do. The sequence is 15 minutes long and includes 600 visual effects shots.

  • How he collaborated with his students to visualize the sequence over 3 weeks shot by shot.
  • Did any story ideas come close to being in the film that ended up being cut?
  • Which sequence was the most challenging in the editing room? Talks about how his editor was cutting as they were filming so when they wrapped it was almost done.
  • Where did the idea for the beginning of the movie come from?
  • When people buy the rights to the film do they get the rights to future sequels?

Here’s the official synopsis for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets:


Image via EuropaCorp

Rooted in the classic graphic novel series, Valerian and Laureline- visionary writer/director Luc Besson advances this iconic source material into a contemporary, unique and epic science fiction saga. Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are special operatives for the government of the human territories charged with maintaining order throughout the universe. Valerian has more in mind than a professional relationship with his partner- blatantly chasing after her with propositions of romance. But his extensive history with women, and her traditional values, drive Laureline to continuously rebuff him. Under directive from their Commander (Clive Owen), Valerian and Laureline embark on a mission to the breathtaking intergalactic city of Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis comprised of thousands of different species from all four corners of the universe. Alpha’s seventeen million inhabitants have converged over time- uniting their talents, technology and resources for the betterment of all. Unfortunately, not everyone on Alpha shares in these same objectives; in fact, unseen forces are at work, placing our race in great danger.

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