Luc Besson’s massive sci-fi epic Valerian and the
Title of a Thousand Words City of a Thousand Planets might still be a year away, with months of visual effects work yet to be completed, but that didn’t stop the director from screening some footage for the very first time at the movie’s Hall H panel today. The seven-minute presentation comprised five scenes, and gave panelgoers their first look at Besson’s adaptation of the trippy ’70s French comic book—which turns out to contain a heavy dose of The Fifth Element-style humor to help leaven its hefty Fifth Element-doubling budget.
Scene 1 (Well, Scene 141, to be exact, but let’s not confuse things)
Titular space agent Valerian (Dane Dehaan) runs through a passageway, communicating with a disembodied voice we assume is his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne). We don’t know where he’s going, but we know he’s in a hurry—until Laureline directs him to a dead end. “This leads me straight into a wall,” he says. “You said you wanted the shortest way.” And, uh, scene. (Don’t worry, there’ll be mroe)
Takeaway: Star Wars‘ stylistic debt to the original Valerian and Laureline comics is obvious here—but more importantly, we get an immediate sense of the deadpan banter between the two agents.
Our first look at Delevingne’s Laureline, who’s being marched down a hallway by Two Big Dudes. (One, in a super-Bessonian move, looks to be wearing a face full of pancake makeup without explanation). “Listen,” Laureline says. “I don’t want to tell you guys how to do your jobs—but don’t you think you should cuff me? First because it’s practical, but also because I’m very tempted to escape.” And then? Then, she proceeds to kicks the everloving crap out of them. “Good job, boys,” she mutters as she takes their blaster and walks away. After she turns the corner, a gaggle of tiny, hairy, dodo-beaked aliens—one of 8,000 species that Besson and his crew designed for their production bible, and one of at least 200 you’ll see in Valerian—comes out to confront her.
Takeaway: Laureline’s all out of bubble gum.
Inside a ship flying toward a planet, Laureline pilots, with Valerian sitting next to her. The latter is a backseat driver, and the former is clearly a terror behind the stick. They argue about her driving as they barrel closer and closer to the planet; Laureline takes her hands off the controls, and finally they burst through the planet’s cloud cover, streaking over the desert landscape below—finally landing in front of a group of six guards. Laureline and Valerian walk out of the ship, dressed in civilian clothes that wouldn’t be out of place in CBGB’s bathroom. “Where’s the band?” Valerian asks, as Laureline does a bizarre hand-jive/voguing thing. They’re in some sort of disguise, and the guards are rightly confused.
Takeaway: Fear not, comedy fans: there’s enough irreverence here for everyone.
Valerian walks through a red light district on an unnamed planet—the atmosphere is half Total Recall half-Blade Runner. He stops in front of a place called GLAM CLUB, and the also-unnamed blue-eyebrowed proprietor (Ethan Hawke) rushes out to solicit his business: “You like techno? Nano? Bio?” “I’m more into retro,” Valerian says. Hawke agrees, and ushers him into a room with a small stage. A woman walks onstage and sits in a chair with her back to Valerian. She turns around, and…it’s Rihanna!
Takeaway: We don’t know who the singer plays yet, but we imagine that the role was hard work, work, work, work, work.
The action capper of the presentation. Valerian and Laureline are on that desert planet, walking toward some sort of protective wall, when a sand creature begins chasing after them. Those guards we saw in the earlier scene usher the two onto a bus, and open fire out the back trying to keep the creature at bay. Instead, it hops onto the bus, punches through the roof, and starts swatting guards around like bowling pins. Meanwhile, the agents’ spaceship swoops out of nowhere to hover in front of the bus, and Valerian and Laureine effect a daring escape.
Takeaway Heavy shades of The Force Awakens here, but we’re not complaining.
But wait, there’s more! A succession of quick cuts flies by, showing aliens of all sizes and types, and even one that looks a lot like Clive Owen. (OK, fine, it’s Clive Owen.) Then, we find ourselves back at the end of the first scene, with Valerian staring at the dead end. “Come on Valerian,” Laureline’s voice says, “It’s Comic Con.” (Shout out to Hall H pandering!) Valerian’s helmet extends out of his suit, and he bursts through the dead end into….a series of extra-dimensional scenes, each stranger than the last. There are industrial chambers, conduits that look like they’re filled with molecular models, and one jungle environment that Valerian hop-skips across like a third-person platformer videogame. (While the footage lasts for maybe 10 seconds, Besson told us that the dimension-hopping sequence will ultimately last for 45.)
Takeaway: Can that extra-dimensional gun fast-forward us to next summer so we can see the finished product already?
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