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‘Valerian’ pushes the limits of sci-fi : Director Luc Besson rethinks the genre’s fear of aliens in latest film

Aug 24,2017
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French director Luc Besson attends a press conference on Wednesday in central Seoul to promote his newest sci-fi adventure movie “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” slated to hit theaters Aug. 30. [PANCINEMA]
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Dane Dehaan, left, and Cara Delevigne star in the upcoming “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” [PANCINEMA]
When it comes to science fiction movies, audiences expect stories that involve grotesque aliens coming to attack the planet and destroy everything in sight. However, French director Luc Besson’s sci-fi adventure movie “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is an eye-popping spectacle that is anything but your average space feature.

Inspired by the classic French comic series “Valerian and Laureline,” the movie is set in the 28th century. The film follows the lives of the happy-go-lucky Major Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and his fellow agent Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevigne).

The two go on a mission to neutralize a threat that will not only destroy the fabled space-station metropolis of Alpha, a city where millions of creatures from different planets live peacefully and exchange knowledge and cultures, but life forms throughout the universe.

The aliens in “Valerian” are quite friendly, which is in line with Besson’s determination to stray away from recent sci-fi flicks, which often depict aliens as dark and ominous creatures.

“Recently in lots of big sci-fi [films] from Hollywood, what’s written on the page is dark. Aliens are coming and they’re destroying everything. We need superheroes to save [us] and aliens get punished,” said Besson during a press conference held in Yongsan, central Seoul, on Wednesday.

“I’m not saying I’m against them. [But] I’m reacting to it,” which explains why the “villains are us” and “heroes don’t have superpowers” in his latest movie.

Besson added, “What I like about sci-fi is the past is written, the present is we have to deal with it, future is a white page. You can write whatever you want.”

The fact that the two heroes - Valerian and Laureline - in the film are normal humans is what compelled Besson into the director’s chair.

“I loved the two characters because they’re normal humans, not superheroes. They have love and have little problems,” the director said. He added that he was amazed to find themes like protecting the environment, living together and racism - all of which are still issues to this day - in the original comics, which were written decades ago.

Like heroines in his previous films, including 2014’s “Lucy” and 1997’s “The Fifth Element,” Laureline is also a strong, independent and courageous woman, traits that Besson holds in high regard.

“[I’ve been impressed with how] women can be strong with their brain and heart, and not specifically with muscle, which is a specialty of men. It’s true I have a lot of admiration for women with dignity. So I try to relate that in film - to show that they’re not just girls crying in the back,” the filmmaker said.

Though some of Besson’s fans may try to find similarities between “Valerian” and his previous sci-fi films like “The Fifth Element” and “The Last Battle” (1983), the director said that they might not find much.

He said that the only similarity between “Valerian” and his previous sci-fi movies is that they’re all from the same director.

The 137-minute “Valerian,” co-starring Ethan Hawke and pop stars Rihanna and Kris, a former member of Exo, will hit local theaters on Aug. 30. It is rated 12 and above.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]