How Avatar Pushed Luc Besson To Finally Do Valerian

Valerian Dane DeHaan

Valerian has been an important part of almost all of writer/director Luc Besson's life. Not only has he been a fan of the French Valerian and Laureline comics since he was 10 years old (describing Laureline as his first love), he has even closely collaborated with its creators in the past, working alongside artist Jean-Claude Mézières on 1997's The Fifth Element. Because of this, it's curious that it's taken this long for the filmmaker to actually make a movie based on the material -- but this is because he believed that it truly would have been an impossible task for the longest time. It wasn't until he saw James Cameron's Avatar in 2009 that he changed his mind and recognized that technology had gotten to where it needed to be to tell the story properly.

In anticipation of the brand new Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets trailer that dropped earlier this morning, I had the pleasure to visit the blockbuster's edit bay last week, and talk at length with the film's creator about the process getting the movie made. Recognizing that Valerian and Laureline co-creator Jean-Claude Mézières worked with Besson on The Fifth Element, I asked if this new movie was something he was thinking about back in the late 1990s -- and he explained the long road the project took and the ultimate impact that Avatar had about possibilities. Said Besson,

[Jean-Claude Mézières] was pushing me, saying 'Why don't you do Valerian? Why don't you do Valerian?' And I read it again, and at the time... there is more than a hundred aliens in the movie! It was just impossible. But I started to write a script in case -- and then Avatar arrived. Avatar, suddenly you say, 'I can do it!' Thanks to Jim [Cameron], he pushed the level so high, you can really do whatever you want now.

Watching the trailer for Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, it's pretty obvious that Luc Besson's assessment of the available technology post-Avatar was spot on. While the filmmaker told me that the film is still very far from being done (having only completed about 10 percent of the total visual effects shots in the film), the teaser shows off a surprisingly large number of the different and amazingly-rendered extraterrestrial beings that the blockbuster will showcase. In case you missed it earlier, or just want to watch it again, you can catch it in the embed below:

Say what you will about Avatar as a film, but there is no denying the influential impact that it's had on filmmakers, and the doors its opened for projects once thought to be impossible. Of course, technology has continued to come a long way since 2009, and just about every modern blockbuster now takes full advantage of it, but James Cameron's film was a truly landmark film, and that's proven just by the fact that we're still seeing the release of movies like Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets that were able to move forward because of it.

Following that teaser trailer, Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets is now a very significant dot on our radar for 2017 -- though we do have to wait a little while for its release. The Luc Besson movie will be dropping in theaters on July 21, 2017 -- but in the meantime, stay tuned for more from my interview with the director!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.