Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Produced for almost MYR1 billion, each planet in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets costs a cool Million!

In the year 1975, the last American Apollo rocket and the Soviet Soyuz 19 capsule docked in orbit around Earth for a project called Alpha. Around the year 2000, 16 nations worked together to build the International Space Station (ISS). Later in 2045, ISS was renamed back to Alpha. In 2099, a communication satellite named Omega made first contact with an extraterrestrial species. The first extraterrestrial ship docks with Alpha in 2135. In the centuries to come, more and more extraterrestrial species have joined to built their habitats on Alpha. Welcome to Alpha, the city of a thousand planets.

Official Synopsis:
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is the visually spectacular new adventure film from Luc Besson, the legendary director of The Professional, The Fifth Element and Lucy, based on the ground-breaking comic book series which inspired a generation of artists, writers and filmmakers. In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha - an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is directed by Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita, Lucy). Starring Dane Dehaan (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Chronicle) as Major Valerian and Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad, Paper Towns) as Sergeant Laureline. Alongside them is an accomplished troupe of performers. Clive Owen (Children of Men, television’s “The Knick”) as Commander Arün Filitt, Ethan Hawke (The Purge, Training Day) as Jolly the Pimp, John Goodman (Atomic Blonde, 10 Cloverfield Lane) as the voice of Igon Siruss, Kris Wu (XXX: Return of Xander Cage, Journey To the West: The Demons Strike Back) as Captain Neza, Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, Batman Begins) as President of the World State Federation and Herbie Hancock (Oscar® and Grammy®-award winning composer) as Defense Minister. Making her fantasy film debut is global pop sensation Rihanna as Bubble.

Valerian (left) and Laureline with Director Luc Besson (centre)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on the French sci-fi comic series called "Valerian and Laureline", originally called "Valerian - Spatiotemporal Agent", created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières. This series was first published in "Pilote" magazine in 1967. The final installment was published in 2010. It was a space opera with time travel plots. It has been compiled into a 21 volume graphic novel, with a short story collection and an encyclopedia. An animated television series called "Time Jam: Valerian and Laureline" was released in 2007. And now it has been adapted to the feature film format with the title Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Specifically, the movie is based on the 6th volume of the comic series titled "Ambassador of the Shadows". While Alpha is not in the comics, it is inspired by Point Central, a space station of a thousand planets; A home to many extraterrestrial species and a center for intergalactic trade; An ever expanding metropolis where species all over the universe have gathered together over centuries to share their knowledge, intelligence and cultures. Valerian and Laureline were in charge of maintaining order throughout the human habitats. A dark force threatens the peaceful existence of Alpha and the duo has to identify the menace, protect Alpha and safeguard the future of the universe.

Scenes in Star Wars inspired by Valerian comics

For decades, "Valerian and Laureline" has influenced the sci-fi genre in many ways. You can see traces of the comic in Conan the Barbarian (although its not acually sci-fi), Independence Day and Star Wars to name a few. Let's take Star Wars since there are very profound similarities. A well-known Han Solo scene in "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" in 1980 is similar to the scene where Valerian was encased in liquid plastic in the issue "The Empire of a Thousand Planets" released in 1971. Leia's slave girl outfit in "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi" is similar to Laureline's slave girl outfit in the issue "World Without Star" released in 1972. And Jabba the Hut's palace also seems similar to a setting in the issue "The Empire of a Thousand Planets". Besson's "Fifth Element" was also heavily influenced by "Valerian and Laureline", with Jean-Claude Mézières providing the concept art for the movie. This is something to keep in mind if you see something familiar or have a feeling of déjà vu when watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

When director Luc Besson was 10 years old, he found a magazine called "Pilote". Inside it he discovered the comic series "Valerian and Laureline" and instantly fell in love with it. This pair of sci-fi heroes have long fascinated generations of European children. They didn't have capes or superhuman abilities or machoistic elements. Valerian and Laureline were more like two normal cops, but they were in the weird and amazing 28th century. They were thinking liberal humanists with a green conscience. Cerebral shoot-'em-up heroes.

Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline are two young agents working for the Spatio-Temporal Service, a source of law and order in the 28th century. Valerian always follows orders and is straight-edged, while Laureline is an independent free-spirited rebel. In the age of instant space-time travel, their mission is to patrol both history and the universe. They travel in a XB982, the B model of the Spatio-Temporal ships that can go back to 30 centuries in average and can go up to 1000 million light-years in time. Agents can go to the past with authorization, but not to the future. But unfortunately we won't see time-travel play in this movie because Besson has mentioned the movie is already complex enough without time-travel. Besson has hinted time-travel may play a role in a sequel if it were to be made.

Valerian (above) is a native of Galaxity, the capital of the Terran empire, and joined the Spatio-Temporal Service in the year 2713. He has been trained to think that Galaxity is always right even when his orders go against his morals. He is a man of action, has a sixth sense for tactics and is a brave warrior. Valerian met Laureline during a mission to 11th century France where she lived as a peasant. Laureline saved Valerian's life but accidentally discovers Valerian is a time-traveller. Valerian is forced to bring her to the 28th century. Laureline was trained to become a Spatio-Temporal agent and assigned to be Valerian's partner.

Laureline (above) is a redheaded female agent in the comics, but is a blonde in the movie. She has innate intelligence matched by her steely determination and impressive strength. “It was the 1970s, and it was the first time we saw this modern girl kicking ass,” Besson shares. Laureline was brave, kind, and always outsmarting her enemies. This was long before Hollywood discovered female empowerment.

Pop music artist Rihanna as shape-shifter Bubble.

Fans of Rihanna, a multi-platinum global pop star and rebellious fashion icon, will be delighted to know that she was Besson's first choice to play Bubble, the shape-shapeshifting "glampod". And she accepted straight away because she interested in tackling her first film role in the fantasy genre. She told Besson "I'm a beginner at acting and unless I work with someone who is good, I won't learn." Such honesty from a superstar! Besson explains "In our film, glampods are artists who've gone to school, so they know masters such as Shakespeare, Molière and Rimbaud, by heart. In that way, Bubble is the ultimate actress." Thus playing the role of Bubble is a very tall order. Just don't expect Rihanna to be singing or have a song in the movie. Besson specifically mentioned she wants her only as an actor.

K-Tron, security droid for Commander Arün Filitt. 
In the movie, fans of the comic series will see familiar faces come to life. Valerian and Laureline, The Spatio-Temporal Service, K-tron (those expensive ruthlessly efficient combat androids), Melo (a rainbow-colored pet lizard) and the many varied extraterrestrial species. Among those species, from the trailers, we can see some notable ones will appear in the movie: the Kortan Dahuk, the Khodar'Khan, the aquatic Marmaka, the Kamuniks, the Omelite, the Doghan Daguiz in the form of The Shingouz (a trio of information brokers) and the Pearls.

The Shingquoz are information brokers from an alien species called Doghan Daguiz.

This the most expensive independent European production ever. Luc Besson initially thought it was impossible to make, but he started write a script after he finished "The Fifth Element". Still the technology was not available to make such a movie... until "Avatar". Besson then saw that he could do everything. "Avatar" proved that imagination is the only limit. Then he threw away his script because he thought it was not good enough. James Cameron pushed the levels too high, so Besson wrote a new script.

Writer-Director Luc Besson on the set of Valerian.

"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" took Besson 7 years to conceive, purportedly €197 million / RM0.975 billion to produce, and almost 2 years to edit. With those numbers, it is remarkable that the number of major studios involved is zero. America has not heard much about the Valerian comics, so Hollywood would be very hesitant to invest in a movie about the comics. Besson needed his own film studio. With his success with a string of TV and film projects that he wrote and produced, Besson started EuropaCorp to distribute his movies in France without any help from an outside distributor. With an established portfolio and his own studio ready, he took his script and sketches to buyers at the Cannes Film Festival three years ago with hopes of securing funding for the project. Besson secured 90 percent of the funding in one day.

Creators of Valerian Pierre Christin Jean-Claude Mézières with Luc Besson (centre).
So here's what we get for a production of almost RM1 billion:

Well actually the real cost might be around 150 million reported by Forbes recently. What currency the costs is quoting in this article is not very clear. Whether Euro or US dollars it's still a massive amount when converted to over MYR 0.5 million per minute of film for it's 137 minute run time.

The official movie tie-in mobile game, Valerian: City of Alpha.

There is already mobile game movie tie-in out now for Android and iOS. This game has more extraterrestrial species from the comics than can be seen in the movie and is still improving. For more information, check out the official Valerian game website.

The official boardgame Valerian: The Alpha Missions coming out soon from Ultra Pro.
For tabletop gaming fans, Ultra Pro will release Valeran: The Alpha Missions in August, the first game under its license for games. Valerian: The Alpha Missions is a cooperative game where teams of agents go on a series of missions to explore the city and collectively decide to work together or split up to complete mission objectives. Intended for 2 to 4 players, ages 11 and up, each mission takes about 30 minutes to play.

Find Valerian's Skyjet at Pavilion KL, level 3, Fashion Avenue.

The Lexus Skyjet, pre-order now for delivery in the 28th Century!

At Pavilion KL there is a display of the Skyjet seen in the movie, provided by Lexus. Apparently Lexus and the Valerian creative team came up with the design of this single-seat pursuit craft. For more information, check out the official Lexus Malaysia website.

The Outpost Movie Recon Team (M.R.T.) has discovered some means to win some Valerian bounty. GSC Cinemas have 2 contests for you to win exclusive merchandise. The first one is on video at their Facebook page which ends this weekend on 23 July.

The second contest is on their website with more goodies, including an iPhone 7 Plus Special Edition. Just take a photo on a Valerian standee in any of the listed GSC cineplexes then post it to Instagram with hashtag #GSCvalerian. To see the prizes and other terms and condition head over to the GSC website.

UPDATE (21/7): The Outpost Movie Recon Team (M.R.T.) has 2 more contests to win Valerian merchandises. Honestly these 2 new contests will be blow your mind away.

mmCineplexes is running a Facebook contest which includes an exclusive tumbler. Like/react, answer a question, comment and tag 3 friends, and share the post for a chance to win something. Contest ends on 2 August 2017.

TGV Cinemas' contest has very surprising prizes. The Grand Prize includes, among other great items, a trip to Boracay, Phillipines for two! And the Second Prize includes, among other great items as well, a Samsung Gear VR with Controller! Contest ends on 03 August 2017.

A childhood fantasy coming to life, an epic sci-fi series that influenced the entire genre, a vision a lifetime in the making.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Cities will be in Malaysian cinemas on 20 July 2017 with this year coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of Valerian first published in 1967.

The official Twitter account of the movie is @ValerianMovie.

Disclaimer: Valerian & Laureline, Valerian & The City of a Thousand Planets and other trademarks are copyright to series creators  Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mézières and/or EuropaCorp, referenced here for fan service engagements without intent to infringe. Valerian & The City of a Thousand Planets is distributed in Malaysian by Rainfilms.

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