How Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ Was Inspired by His Trippy Sci-Fi ‘The Fifth Element’

IndieWire | 7/24/2017 | Staff
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Luc Besson was born to make “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” Based on the influential French comics series “Valérian and Laureline” (written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières), it’s sci-fi on steroids with a multitude of exotic aliens and baroque environments. Very French and very weird.

But before Besson could tackle his ambitious passion project about a pair of “spatio-temporal agents” (Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne) protecting the intergalactic city of Alpha, he first had to make “The Fifth Element.” That was 20 years ago, at the dawn of CG, and his experimental tune-up for “Valerian” became a cult classic.

Fifth - Element

“The Fifth Element”

Bruce Willis played a flying taxi driver in futuristic New York who goes on a wild adventure with the orange-haired, humanoid savior of the universe (Milla Jovovich). Besson even hired Mézières as an uncredited designer because it was easier than just ripping off his comic series.

Besson - Circle - Universe - Fifth - Element

Now Besson has come full circle, creating a shared universe with both “The Fifth Element” and “Valerian,” each influencing the other in design and VFX methodologies.

On “The Fifth Element,” Besson devised a color script with reds, blues, pinks, yellows, purples, and earth tones for his eye-popping imagery that also served him well on “Valerian.” “Luc is drawn to the palette from the original ‘Valerian’ comics along with other complementary colors,” said production VFX supervisor Scott Stokdyk, who worked as a digital artist on “The Fifth Element.”

Fifth - Element

“The Fifth Element”

“It’s an accumulation of thousands of choices as he’s making this movie,” Stokdyk said. “But the thing that struck all the visual effects people working on this was how much Luc had in his head. He was constantly checking the work against his mental picture.”

Concepts - Comics - Way - Fifth - Element

Concepts from the “Valerian” comics made their way into “The Fifth Element,” such as the futuristic New York with...
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