A panel from Valerian: Empire of a Thousand Planets, soon to be a film by Luc Besson

The Fifth Element director, Luc Besson, is doubling down on science fiction with an ambitious new epic film, Valerian, due to be released in 2017. Based on a hugely popular French comic book series of the same name, it will be a massive $180M million project in 3D IMAX with wall-to-wall visual effects.

Director Besson is raring and ready to go: he said in an interview with Deadline that he sees this project as an opportunity to put French filmmaking, and himself, back in the big budget spotlight usually occupied by the likes of James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. His goal is to do no less than offer the audience a “wow” moment that is as impressive as the premiere of Star Wars was back in 1977.

And he’s not kidding when he says he wants this to be the best film he can possibly make: he was ready to start shooting years ago, but when he saw James Cameron’s Avatar he scrapped the entire project and started over. His approach had been too tame and he wants this film to be a game changer.

Like The Fifth Element, this film will be a wide-reaching special effects epic, and he is taking the lessons of his previous film to heart. Although The Fifth Element was a hugely successful film internationally, it did not do very well at the US box office. It has become a science fiction classic since then, but looking back on it, he sees that the film was “too European” at that time. And with twenty years of experience producing hits like the Taken and The Transporter franchises, and his recent film, Lucy, he feels that he has his finger on the pulse of the worldwide audience and will be able to appeal to moviegoers from the United States all the way to China.

The Valérian comic book series focuses on a duo of 28th century time traveling agents: Valerian, an honest an obedient hero, and Laureline a smart, determined and independent heroine. Like the comic books series, the film will span multiple planets and time periods as they defend the planet Earth and its allies. The comic books were created by some of Luc Besson’s favorites, writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières—Mézières worked as a conceptual designer on The Fifth Element. 

And Besson is lining up an impressive cast for this film, including Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns), Ethan Hawke (Gattaca), Clive Owen (Children of Men), and internationally-famed musicians Rihanna and Herbie Hancock.

Keep an eye on this one, if nothing else, it will be an entertaining big-budget spectacle—and if Luc Besson can meet the challenge, it could be another science fiction milestone.

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