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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Who is Valerian? Where is this city of a thousand planets? And what sci-fi madness doesLuc Besson (The Fifth Element, Lucy) have up his sleeve this time out? We really won't know for sure until July 2017, but Besson gave CinemaBlend an exclusive sneak peek at Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets this morning at San Diego Comic-Con, and it was impressive.

The footage, according to Luc Besson, was nowhere near finished in terms of the visual effects, but I couldn't tell based on the scenes that he chose to show. Filming on the movie wrapped six weeks ago (in colorful fashion, according to the movie's Twitter feed), and a Hall H panel aimed at educating fans on the world of Valerian was held this afternoon in San Diego. Based on the classic French sci-fi comic series Valerian and Laureline, the new movie casts Dane DeHaan as a time-traveling special operatives investigator who works with his partner, Laureline (Cara Delevingne), on a series of adventures to protect the mysterious realm of, Alpha, a land where 17 million inhabitants have converged over a series of time.

We won't see 17 million inhabitants, but Luc Besson tells us that there are more than 200 aliens in the film, created through a mix of practical effects and digital wizardry. The scenes that we witnessed were a mixture of Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner and, naturally, The Fifth Element. O surprise, really, as the Valerian comic openly influenced the visual designs of those projects. Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) are warriors, and they wear bulky body suits with bright glowing lights that have a Tron-esque effect. We saw Dane in his suit, maneuvering through hallways that looked to be reminiscent of the hallways of the Death Star, or the hallways of the new Enterprise in the rebooted Star Trek universe. We see Laureline using her fighting skills to elude two guards who had her captured, all so she could question three odd-looking alien creatures.

The footage opened up the expanse of the universe in a scene where we saw Valerian and Laureline playfully bantering while piloting a spaceship. This is clearly hard science-fiction, with beautiful galaxy sequences populated by multiple space craft, endless alien species, and creative set design. Not to keep referencing other movies, because Valerian does look very unique, but the footage seemed to rely on the best elements of Guardians of the Galaxy.

My favorite scene, however, which I'll write about in greater detail in another story, takes place in a nightclub that'd be perfectly at home in Ridley Scott's classic Blade Runner. It's all neon and sleaze, with a seedy owner (played by Ethan Hawke) and a strip show starring ... let's just say a very famous pop star.

The footage that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets brought to San Diego Comic-Con had a ton of energy, thrills and creativity. It ended on a tease for a much longer scene that Valerian will complete, a 45-second run through countless planets that has tantalizing, first-person video game qualities to it. Yet, as Besson told me, the characters remain very human, in a Mr. and Mrs. Smith sort of way. Besson teased after the presentation, "You have seen nothing." But what he showed was more than enough to get me very excited for July 2017.

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