Weekend Box Office: 'Dunkirk' Heads for $45M-$50M U.S. Debut; 'Valerian' Bombing


Elsewhere, Universal’s ‘Girls Trip’ is breaking the R-rated comedy curse with a projected $25M-plus opening.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is easily winning the Friday box-office battle for a projected $45 million-$50 million debut, marking the best opening for a World War II movie in recent times.

Dunkirk is expected to earn $17 million or more on Friday, including $5.5 million in Thursday night previews. The critically acclaimed film, from Warner Bros., is playing in 3,720 locations and is getting a wide berth in Imax theaters and on 70mm screens.

Nolan’s last film, Interstellar, debuted to nearly $50 million over the long Thanksgiving holiday in 2014, including $47.5 million for the three-day weekend. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) was his biggest opening ($160.9 million), followed by 2008’s The Dark Knight ($158.4 million), 2005’s Batman Begins ($73 million, including a three-day weekend of $48.7 million) and 2010’s Inception ($62.8 million).

Dunkirk, recounting one of World War II’s most famous battles, stars Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, One Direction’s Harry Styles and Aneurin Barnard. At 106 minutes, it is the shortest film of Nolan’s career, outside of his first movie. The production budget was $150 million or more, although Warners insiders insist it was notably lower.

Overseas, Dunkirk has earned $8.6 million in its first two days after beginning to roll out in select markets on Wednesday.
 
Elsewhere, Universal’s Girls Trip is laughing loudly in North America. The femme-centric pic looks to earn $11 million or more from 2,591 theaters on Friday, including $1.7 million in previews, for an opening in the $26 million range — the best showing of the year so far for an R-rated comedy, a genre that’s been decidedly challenged.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, who also produced alongside Will Packer, Girls Trip stars Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah as lifelong friends who go to New Orleans for a wild weekend of fun.

The news isn’t good for the weekend’s third new release, Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets. The sci-fi epic, costing at least $180 million to produce, is projected to gross $7 million on Friday from 3,553 theaters and $17 million for the weekend.

From Besson’s EuropaCorp and U.S. distributor STXfilms, the film stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevinge as a duo who must travel through space and time to save the universe. Besson’s EuropaCorp put together financing for the movie and provided marketing funds.

At that pace, Valerian won’t be able to beat holdovers Spider-Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes. Among other holdovers, Universal and Illumination’s Despicable Me 3 jumped the $200 million mark at the domestic box office on Thursday.



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Box-Office Preview: Can 'Dunkirk' Battle Past $40M in U.S. Debut?


War films don’t have a history of opening to big numbers; elsewhere, femme-centric comedy ‘Girls Trip’ expects to laugh loudly, while Luc Besson’s big-budget ‘Valerian’ braces for bad news.

While Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is expected to win this weekend’s box-office battle, the big question is whether the critically acclaimed World War II epic can clear $40 million in its U.S. landing.

War dramas have never been known for big openings, although Nolan — the mastermind behind the blockbuster Dark Knight trilogy — is a powerful brand unto himself.

Warner Bros., Nolan’s home studio, is projecting a domestic debut in the $35 million-$40 million range. Most box-office observers believe Dunkirk will come in on the higher end, while some think it has a shot of doing more, thanks to a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 97 percent. Also, many believe the film will have exceptionally strong legs. 

Among other relatively recent World War II films, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken debuted to $30.6 million in December 2014, while Fury launched to $23.7 million in November of that same year. Last year, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge took in $15.2 million.

To this day, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) remains the top-grossing World War II movie of all time domestically, earning $216.5 million, or $404.4 million when adjusting for inflation. That film debuted to $31 million, or $57.6 million when accounting for inflation.

In terms of Nolan’s track record, his last film, Interstellar, debuted to nearly $50 million over the long Thanksgiving holiday in 2014, including $47 million for the three-day weekend. The Dark Knight Rises was his biggest opening ($160.9 million), followed by The Dark Knight ($158.4 million), Batman Begins ($73 million) and Inception ($62.8 million).

Nolan is a huge fan of Imax and shot much of Dunkirk with Imax cameras; he’s also an advocate for 70mm film.

Dunkirk, recounting one of the war’s most famous battles, stars Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles and Aneurin Barnard. At 106 minutes, it is the shortest film of Nolan’s career outside of his first movie. Overseas, Dunkirk opens in 45 markets this weekend.

Dunkirk reportedly cost $150 million or more to make, although sources at Warners say that figure is too high. It certainly isn’t the only big-budget film of the weekend: Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets sports a net production budget of $180 million. 

Valerian may have trouble hitting $20 million in its debut, a dismal start for Besson’s EuropaCorp and STXfilms, the U.S. distributor. Besson’s EuropaCorp put together financing for the movie and provided marketing funds, limiting STX’s exposure. A passion project for Besson, Valerian is based on the French science-fiction comics series about a young man (Dane DeHaan) and (Cara Delevinge) who must travel through space and time to save the universe.

The laugh meter looks strong for Universal’s femme-centric Girls Trip, which is expected to break the R-rated comedy curse and laugh past $20 million in its U.S. launch. Directed by Malcom D. Lee, who also produced alongside Will Packer, Girls Trip stars Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah as lifelong friends who go to New Orleans for a bawdy weekend of fun.

Girls Trip cost roughly $20 million to produce.
 



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Luc Besson Talks 'Avatar' Inspiration at 'Valerian' Premiere


“I just want to do something different because that’s what I want as a moviegoer, I want something fresh and new,” the director told THR.

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets director Luc Besson, walking the black carpet at The Chinese Theater Monday, gave credit to James Cameron’s Avatar as a main source of his inspiration. 

Cast members Cara Delevingne, Dane DeHaan and Rihanna joined him at the Hollywood event to preview the filmmaker’s latest sci-fi creation. 

After seeing Valerian for the first time, Besson described The Hollywood Reporter his initial reaction at the final product: “I was surprised. I didn’t expect that we could be at this high level of definition and creativity.”

He added that Valerian was a project he wanted to stand out and also create an entirely new way audiences see sci-fi and comic-inspired stories.

“If you want to come up with something, if you’re pretentious enough to say ‘I’m coming with something new,’ come with something really new and different,” said Besson. “I’d rather take the risk, that people watch the film and are blown away and get lost because there is so much but I don’t want to do the things that we see almost every week now. I just want to do something different because that’s what I want as a moviegoer, I want something fresh and new.”

“Luc’s imagination is so incredible and the fact that technology has finally caught up to that, [it’s] the ultimate summer movie,” DeHaan told THR on the black carpet.

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets hits theaters July 21.



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Luc Besson on the Risks of 'Valerian' and That Time James Cameron "Took Me for a Moron"


As the EuropaCorp mogul — and THR’s International Producer of the Year — prepares to release the most expensive film of his career, he opens up about his arm’s-length relationship with Hollywood (“I do ‘Leon,’ they send me four ‘Leons'”) and his lifelong obsession with an “impossible”-to-film French comic book.

Luc Besson was 8 years old when he fell in love with the French graphic novel Valerian and Laureline, about two young adventurers who travel through space and time. Now, half a century later, the 58-year-old French producer-director is bringing his childhood infatuation to the screen. At $180 million, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is by far the most expensive picture he has ever made, with double the budget of his last sci-fi feature, 1997’s The Fifth Element. The STX release (which opens July 21) is the biggest bet yet from a man who has made a career of them — from directing 1985’s Subway to 1990’s La Femme Nikita (one of the first action flicks centered on a woman) to 1994’s Leon: The Professional and 2014’s Lucy, not to mention producing franchises like Taxi and Taken.

But no matter how much Besson has riding on his new picture, he gives no sign of being perturbed when THR sits down with him in mid-May in the rather impersonal, two-room suite he maintains several floors above his high-tech studio just north of Paris, La Cite du Cinema. (It has an accompanying film school, L’Ecole de la Cite.) This is where Besson spends most of his time when he’s not at home in Beverly Hills, where he has lived for the past three years with his producer-wife, Virginie Besson-Silla, and their three children, ages 11 to 16.

Relaxed in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, music wafting from his iPad, the filmmaker is expansive when talking about his family and personal life, but more reticent when it comes to addressing the business aspects of his career and company, EuropaCorp, in which he’s the largest shareholder. Perhaps that’s because, after years of success, EuropaCorp will post a loss of $136 million in 2016, just a few weeks after our meeting, the result of such misfires as Nine Lives, Shut In and Miss Sloane. Besson leaves talk of business to his company’s CEO, Marc Shmuger.

“EuropaCorp experienced significant losses this past year,” acknowledges Shmuger. “Over the course of the past year, we took necessary measures to strengthen the company’s treasury position. These measures include restructuring our first and second lien debt, a new capital raise from [Chinese production and distribution firm] Fundamental and sales of noncore assets [among them, theaters in Paris].”

They also include bringing in outside financiers to defray some of the cost of Valerian, whose downside already has been covered, he says, thanks to $30 million in French subsidies, outside equity and presales, reducing EuropaCorp’s investment to about 10 percent of the total budget.

The company signed a three-year exclusive (in the U.S.) distribution and marketing services pact with STX in early 2017 after extricating itself from a problematic joint venture with Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media. In leaving Relativity, it tightened its focus, going from an original plan to have up to 12 domestic releases per year to about four — all at much lower budgets than that of Valerian.

Those projects include another Taxi sequel, a follow-up to Lucy (possibly starring Scarlett Johansson again) and such European productions as Kursk (with Matthias Schoenaerts, Colin Firth and Lea Seydoux) and the horror film Underground (with Ben Kingsley and Peter Franzen).

It is for this prodigious output — and for his willingness to risk so much — that THR has named Besson its International Producer of the Year.

When did you start working on Valerian?

When I did The Fifth Element 20 years ago, the designer Jean-Claude Mezieres was saying, “Why are you not doing Valerian? Why are you doing this stupid Fifth Element thing?” I said, “Because [Valerian] is impossible.” But then, little by little, the technique went up. I started to write, and I wrote for a couple of years just to see: Was it good enough? Was it worthwhile enough? And then it came to maturation.

How much of your own money is in the film?

My entire salary. [The budget is] not my money, but at the last minute, the financing fell short, so they asked me, “Can you put your entire salary in?” And I said yes.

When you saw Avatar, you threw away the Valerian script. Why?

Because it wasn’t good enough. Avatar was on such a [high] level that [I thought], “You’re not qualified. Go back to training,” like with the Olympic Games. You can’t go and ask for $180 million [without being ready].

Did you discuss Valerian with James Cameron?

He invited me on the set of Avatar in L.A. because I said, “I’m writing something sci-fi,” and he said, “Come and see how it’s working.” Being there, in the middle of the factory with nothing, and seeing the world on the screen — he took me for a moron at the beginning, because it was kind of complicated for me to understand. He looked at me like, “This moron doesn’t understand anything.” I don’t have a computer. I have this, an iPad, with music. Then we went for lunch, and I asked him a lot of questions, and he gave me some tips. He was such a gentleman, so secure. You know, the people who are secure are generous.

Are you secure?

Yes. Now. A little bit. But the first few years, you’re like, “Grrrrr.” You’re going to bite anyone who comes close to you.

When did you first realize you wanted to make films?

My parents worked [as SCUBA teachers] at Club Med, so I was watching shows every night. I started to write at 13, to take pictures at 14. It just came to me, like some people love baseball — me, it was photography and writing. I built my skills without noticing. Later, I said: “Hmm, movies, that’s probably a good way of expressing for me because I’m not good at anything [else].”

Was there a particular film that influenced you?

I never fell in love with films because I was not watching films at all. [After his parents split up] I had a stepfather who didn’t want TV and music at home; he didn’t want any way of expressing art in the house. He was working on Formula One, so it was all about cars. I was kind of frustrated.

Did you ever want to be anything other than a filmmaker?

When I was 16, I wanted to study dolphins, because I was in love with dolphins. And I got in a diving accident and the doctor told me, “You will never dive again.” This guy broke me in two. He didn’t even realize what he had done because that was my life, diving, dolphins. And the day he said “forget about it” [was as if] basically you want to be a dancer and then you have no feet. I was very desperate. It was my worst moment. You’re 16, you’re in boarding school, and you’re broken by this doctor. I was really, really down. I remember asking myself, “What are you going to do with your life?” I took a piece of paper and I put a line down the middle, and on the left I said what I loved and on the right what I hated.

What did you love and what did you hate?

I can’t remember exactly. But when I read the left column, I realized almost everything was artistic. And it was the first time I said, “Wow, maybe cinema could be good.” And then a friend of a friend was shooting a short film in Paris, and I took the train and went there. And I arrived on the set and fell in love. I stayed two days, I slept on the set to keep an eye on the material, and I went back home to see my mom. I said, “I know what I’m going to do.” And the day after, I came down to breakfast with my suitcase and I said, “I’m leaving.”

Leaving home?

Yeah. Home and school. I came back from the set on a Sunday night, and on the Monday morning I went back to Paris. A friend [put me up] for a few nights. Then I was going from apartment to apartment, living on the couch, eating what was in the fridge — and usually on set they’d always have food. You eat twice a day and then you sleep. I really loved it. But the more you see on a set, the more you see other layers. You think it’s just a door, but no, after the door there are two other doors. I was so naive, I had no [frame of] reference, but I was not blocked by anything. I was like a kid who is not afraid of dogs and puts his hand in their mouths, you know? And I did my first short film 12 months later. I started my first long feature film at 19 [The Last Battle, about humans in a post­apocalyptic world]. I turned 20 years old during the shooting. Sometimes we were shooting on the weekend — because when [the studios] have a big film shooting, they don’t shoot on the weekend, so you take the [equipment] and put it back on Sunday night. We did films with nothing, nothing. I was asking my mom to prep food for the team, because I couldn’t pay for the lunch. She’s a very good cook, so they were happy.

Did you ever study film?

No. But when I arrived in Paris at 17, I didn’t have a lot of money, and there was a [bookstore] just for films, near the Champs-Elysees [with anything that] you wanted to find on movies or how to make a script. And I stayed for hours and bought [a film industry version of the Yellow Pages], which was the most practical thing to get. Then I still had 20 francs in my hand, and I said to the girl, “For four bucks, do you have a little something I can buy?” She said, “In this big basket, there are used books.” I took a very small book, a treatise on directing [Notes of a Film Director]. I studied it, and it was quite complicated. I liked the book very much. What I didn’t know was that the writer was [Russian master Sergei] Eisenstein. And the treatise was very pragmatic and simple and clear, which is exactly what I needed at the time. So my basis is Eisenstein.

Do you watch films a lot now?

No. Cooking and eating are not the same job. My job is cooking.

Are there any filmmakers you particularly admire?

Actually, almost all of them, because it’s a hard job. Every time you feel the heart of the guy, I like it. What I don’t like is when you feel the studio too much and you don’t feel the guy. There are a couple of Marvels where I don’t feel the guy. The films are pretty good, but I don’t know who cooked them.

Are you friends with other filmmakers?

I am very friendly with them. I say “friendly” because I don’t see them enough. There’s a couple that I see: Ridley Scott sometimes, Darren Aronofsky. But I can’t say I am friends with them. What’s interesting is, I’ve never felt a [sense of] competition with any director. Never. The directors’ family is very, very friendly. I have a funny story: I had a film, I don’t remember [which one] but I was in New York, and I saw the poster [outside] the theater. There were two screens, and my film was playing [in the theater next to] a Pedro Almodovar film. I went in, just to smell the ambience, just for curiosity. And I opened the door and Pedro Almodovar bursts in. I said, “Oh, my God, Pedro, what are you doing here?” He was doing the same thing as me. We were laughing so much.

You’ve avoided working in the Hollywood studio system. Do they come after you?

I’ve received a script per week for 20 years. I’ve never stayed away from Hollywood. I always answer very politely, and I’m very honored. But no one comes with an Amadeus or something that I would love to do. When I do La Femme Nikita, they send me all the Nikitas — three, four, five. When I do Leon, they send me four Leons. When I do The Fifth Element, they send me all the sci-fi. That’s not interesting to me. I mean, if someone gave me Raging Bull, I would be thrilled.

The Fifth Element seems more of a success today than when it came out. Why?

Maybe the film at the time was too weird. Twenty years ago, there was no internet. And the film was wild. It was not conventional. The hero who saved the world [was] a girl with orange hair who doesn’t speak English. A classical singer extraterrestrial in space. It’s like, what the f— is this thing?

What do you do outside filmmaking?

The biggest thing is writing, in the morning. I love that. If I don’t write for a few days, I feel bad. I’m nervous and I’m not agreeable with people. It’s my gym.

Do you read a lot as well as write?

No, I don’t. Except scripts. I can’t concentrate on a book. You start the book and the guy is talking about a garden — and after two pages, I’m in the garden of my grandmother, and I think about my grandmother and that’s it, I’m out. For me, a book is a house without walls. I get in, and I can’t get out. And that’s what I love about film: You have to follow the thing; you can’t go backward or forward.

Do you enjoy producing as much as directing?

It’s not the same job. Producing is being on the bench and screaming to the players on the field, “Faster!” (Laughs.) Being a director is painful. It’s the hardest job, because you’re responsible for everything, you have people asking you questions every three seconds. You have to manage the emotional DNA of everyone on the set, especially the actors. You have to be the general of an army. And then you’re in the editing room. And you see an image of your film that is not your film, and when you’ve finished, you push the film out to the press, who most of the time kill you. It’s a hell of a job.

What makes a good producer?

I don’t know if I’m a good producer. Because a good director makes a good film, even with a bad producer. A producer is really at the service of the director, understands the qualities of the director and maybe the bad parts, and can tell him, “No, you are lying to yourself here.”

What’s the worst part of being a director?

You need to have an extra sensitivity, permanently, from the morning to the end of the day. It’s almost like you take your skin out and people are touching you all day. I remember going back to the hotel at 10 p.m. and watching TV, and they were talking about the opening of a salon of flowers, and you see some old people going there — and I’m crying. It’s terrible. And it’s terrible because you take the skin out and then every morning you put on armor, because you need both. You need to be absolutely nonsensitive. You need to be a general of an army and at the same time, if a flower [touches] your arm, you scream. It’s painful. And honestly, every time you start to film, you remember that. You say, “All right, OK, I’m going to make the film,” and you take the decision, you accept the pain. You never go, “Oh, my God, it’s going to be great! We’re going to do a film!” You know it’s going to be painful.

This story first appeared in the July 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.



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'Valerian' Features 2,355 Visual Effects Shots, 600 More Than 'Rogue One'


From new alien species to a crab monster to a space station, the $180 million movie includes motion-capture performances and a luxury spacecraft designed in collaboration with Lexus.

The last time Luc Besson made a sci-fi film (1997’s The Fifth Element), it cost $90 million and contained 250 special effects shots, including Bruce Willis’ famous flying taxicab. Now, 20 years later, he has spent twice as much on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, but for nearly 10 times the eye candy, with a whopping 2,355 visual effects shots, some 600 more than Rogue One.

“We were filming basically every day in front of a bluescreen,” says actress Cara Delevingne. “Out of six months, only two weeks were under normal circumstances.”

Effects include a 500-floor, cavern-like alien marketplace; a crab monster called a Megaptor; a space station known as Alpha; and a luxury spacecraft, the Lexus Skyjet, designed with the help of real-life Lexus engineers. There’s also a slew of new alien species, including the snout-nosed Doghans, the giant Bromosaur and a 7-foot-tall, human-ish CG creature named Igor Siruss, voiced by John Goodman.

But it’s the Pearls — an ethereal, willowy, semitransparent race — who play a crucial part in the story. “They live an idealistic life that’s horribly interrupted by a space battle,” explains Martin Hill, a VFX supervisor at New Zealand-based Weta, which did many of the film’s effects (Industrial Light & Magic and Rodeo FX were among the other contributors).

The Pearls are based on motion-capture performances, but “Luc wanted something even more alien,” says Hill. “So there’s augmentation to them. Their eyes are further apart and tilted, and their temples are sunk in. The less human you go, the more subjective beauty is; it was an interesting line to make sure we kept them beautiful.” Delevingne adds: “All of them [playing the Pearls] were friends. A lot are models whom I’ve worked with.” The Pearls also have a unique way of expressing themselves. “Luc wanted them to emote in different ways,” says Hill. “He wanted them to change color or have patterns rolling over their bodies.”

At least one effect in Valerian, however, isn’t new. Watch the film carefully, advises Hill, and maybe you’ll catch a brief shot of Willis’ flying taxi.

This story first appeared in the July 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.



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China Delays Release of 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' 'Valerian'


The move suggests that China’s media regulators have reinstated their infamous blackout on Hollywood film imports during the lucrative summer moviegoing season.

Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s worldwide box-office dominance is missing one major piece of the global puzzle: China.

So far in 2017, most major Hollywood tentpoles have opened in China day-and-date with North America, or just shortly after their U.S. debut. But sources in Beijing say Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming has yet to be given an official release date, which means it is unlikely to open in the world’s second-largest film market until at least August.

The same goes for 20th Century Fox’s War for The Planet of the Apes, opening in North America on Friday, and Luc Besson’s Valerian, set for a North American debut on July 21.

In an increasingly integrated — and still piracy-vulnerable — global entertainment landscape, release delays have been known to erode box office significantly.

The uncertainty surrounding these much-anticipated tentpoles is the clearest indication yet that Beijing’s media regulators intend to reinstate their infamous blackout on foreign film imports during the lucrative summer moviegoing season.

Facing a slowdown in box-office growth, regulators cut the blackout season short in 2016, allowing a handful of U.S. studio titles into the market in late July and August. Some had speculated that China might abolish the summer blackout practice altogether this year, since Washington and Beijing trade officials are currently engaged in a high-stakes renegotiation of the U.S. film industry’s terms of doing business in China. Allergic to the notion of American pop culture dominance, Beijing employs various means — including quotas, reduced revenue shares and blackouts — to limit Hollywood’s access to the massive mainland Chinese theatrical market. The United States Trade Representative office, with the MPPA’s urging, is understood to be pushing hard for China to give up such practices.

For their part, China’s movie regulators — specially, the Film Bureau, within the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television — find themselves trapped between competing priorities. Upper levels of the Chinese government are understood to demand that Chinese movies maintain at least a 55 percent market share at the national box office. At the same time, they want to see steady overall growth in the marketplace, so that China can overtake North America as the world’s largest theatrical market as soon as possible (Pricewaterhouse Coopers currently forecasts China will claim that crown in 2020).

Box-office growth remained sluggish in the first half of the year, however, with total revenue climbing just 3.7 percent. And it was Hollywood that saved the Chinese market from an embarrassing loss. With local Chinese movies continuing to underperform, regulators allowed in a record 57 foreign films during the period — 14 more than last year. As a result, Chinese movies’ market share plunged to just 39 percent. To get that number back above 55 percent — while also escaping a full-year decline and intense global trade heat from U.S. officials — the Film Bureau will have to execute some regulatory maneuvering that is nothing less than heroic.

 



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'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets': What the Critics Are Saying


THR’s Todd McCarthy writes, “The Razzies don’t need to wait until the end of the year to anoint a winner for 2017,” but some critics found more to like about Luc Besson’s sci-fi epic.

Are the reviews for Luc Besson’s Valerian out of this world?

The adaptation of the French comic Valerian et Laureline stars Dane DeHaan as the adventurer Valerian and Cara Delevingne as his partner Laureline, who find themselves on an enormous space station called Alpha, home to thousands of species.

Valerian, which opens July 21 opposite of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, is considered a big gamble for Besson, who has dreamed of making the film for decades, back to his The Fifth Element Days. (He has maintained the financial risk to his EuropaCorp is minimal, thanks to foreign pre-sales.) Sizzle reels and trailers at conventions around the country over the past year have wowed with their effects, but according to reviews out Monday, the dazzling 3D isn’t enough to win over many critics.

The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy has a lot to say about the film, but really, the first paragraph of his reivew sort of says it all: “The Razzies don’t need to wait until the end of the year to anoint a winner for 2017. The Golden Turkey Awards should be republished with a new cover. Euro-trash is back, while sci-fi will need to lick its wounds for a while. Dane DeHaan, who has starred in two of the most egregiously bloated misfires of the year with A Cure for Wellness and now this, should do a couple of indie films, while Cara Delevingne needs to learn there is more to acting than smirking and eye-rolling. Rihanna should pretend this never happened. And the Hollywood studio chiefs can breathe easy that, this time, at least, they’ll escape blame for making a giant summer franchise picture that nobody wants to see, since this one’s a French import.”

Things weren’t any kinder at the New York Daily News, where Stephen Whitty writes, “the movie itself is a big, black hole.” He acknowledges Besson has fun with the effects, but ultimately, “the movie is its own empty rocket ship, piloted by a giddy teenage boy and a crew of two sullen children, slowly creeping its way toward airless oblivion. It never stops for a minute, yet it never goes anywhere.”

David Ehrlich at IndieWire praises the impressive setting of Alpha, but notes that’s far from being able to save the film: “Alpha is a miraculous place, a Wonderland in orbit, but this incredible world is desperately in search of a story worth its sights. Besson’s film is mesmerizing as long as Valerian and Laureline keep digging towards the center, diving through massive computer circuits and stealing parasites off the backs of giant alien scallops in their quest towards the big nothing at the end of the tunnel, but the vividness of this place only underscores the lifelessness of the people leading us through it.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty didn’t pull any punches in his review, writing, “During the film’s intoxicating first 30 minutes, for example, I couldn’t decide whether what I was watching was brilliantly bonkers or total folly. Then, as the story went on, it came into sharper and sharper focus: Valerian is an epic mess.”

Nashawaty praises the film’s “breathtaking” opening montage and first half hour, but finds DeHaan’s performance lacking, writing his take on Valerian has “all the charisma and energy of a narcoleptic about to nod off.”

For Nashawaty, DeHaan poses the biggest problem for the film. “The movie is cast badly. Both DeHaan and — to a lesser degree — Delevingne are all wrong,” he says.

And although he gives Besson credit for not playing it safe, Nashawaty writes, “Valerian and Besson strain so hard to sizzle your retinas and knock you out with the film’s oddness that it eventually becomes numbing — and then just exhausting.”

Not everyone was left cold by the film, however. Cinemablend’s Eric Eisenberg finds that, although “some elements just don’t work as they really should” – such as the chemistry between the leads and a somewhat bloated second half –  the film is still a “spectacle of the summer.” 

In short, he writes, “It’s visually stunning, beautifully prescient in its humanist themes (alien-ist too, I suppose?), and while its reach doesn’t match its grasp in some respects, you’re still left respecting the hell out of the reach alone.”

Forbes‘ Scott Mendelson goes so far as to call the film “a dazzling delight.” Praising the special effects, he compares the feel of the film to other sci-fi classics such as Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Unlike Eisenberg, Mendelson calls the chemistry between DeHaan and Delevingne “terrific,” although he finds issue with the decision to separate the characters for a large portion of the film. However, he writes, “In an era of recycled and/or nostalgia-driven IP, Valerian is the sort of ‘new to movies’ franchise that deserves to live long and prosper.”



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Luc Besson Unveils Exclusive 'Valerian' Footage at CineEurope


Four scenes from the biggest independent film of all time, due out next month, were shown in Barcelona.

With roughly a month before the official release of his biggest film to date, not to mention the biggest independent film of all time, Luc Besson used the first day of CineEurope to drum up further excitement for his space opera Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. 

Taking the stage for the first session of the trade show in Barcelona, some three years after he last attended to unveil his studio EuropaCorp’s “unexpected success” Lucy, the flamboyant French filmmaker unveiled four exclusive 3D scenes from the $200 million budget film, which he said was seven years in the making. 

“I’m very happy today – I finished the film!” he excitedly told the audience, adding that he’d discovered the comic book Valerian as a 10-year-old and had instantly fallen in love with the female lead Laureline. 

After a high-octane opening, introducing the two main characters, played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, Besson joked that Valerian was “clearly a very French, intellectual film.”

Comparing the film to his last major sci-fi, The Fifth Element, Besson said that the 1997 hit contained 188 special effects shots. “This has 2,734,” he laughed, adding that some 2,300 people had worked on the film.

“It’s two hours, nine minutes long, but with the credits about three hours and 20.”

Following the exclusive footage, Besson said goodbye, concluding, “See you in space soon.”

Valerian will hit theaters domestically on July 21. 



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'The Villainess,' Takashi Miike's 'Jojo's Bizarre Adventure' to Open Fantasia Festival


The first titles unveiled for the Montreal film fest include Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,’ starring Rihanna and Dane DeHaan.

The Fantasia International Film Festival, North America’s largest genre film festival, on Wednesday released the first wave of titles for its upcoming 21st edition.

The festival will open with North American premieres for Korean director Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainess and Takashi Miike’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

The Villainess, which bowed in Cannes, stars Kim Ok-bin as a trained assassin blackmailed into working for the government. And Miike’s live-action version of bes-tselling manga Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, to debut in Neuchatel, is the first co-production between Warner Bros. Japan and Toho, the Japanese company behind the iconic Godzilla franchise.

Fantasia will also feature a special screening of Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, based on the French comic series and starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen and Rihanna. The fest will host world premieres for Ted Geoghegan’s sophomore feature Mohawk, starring Kaniehtiio Horn; and Steve Mitchell’s King Cohen, a documentary about indie filmmaker Larry Cohen, with appearances by Martin Scorsese, John Landis, J.J. Abrams and Joe Dante.

Also getting first looks in Montreal are Ryan Prows’ Lowlife; Gela Babluani’s Money’s Money, starring Benoit Magimel and Olivier Rabourdin; and Brazilian writer-director Gabriela Amaral Almeida’s Friendly Beast.

Elsewhere, there’s an international premiere for You Only Live Once, the feature debut of Spanish stunt coordinator Federico Cueva, which stars Peter Lanzani, Gerard Depardieu and Hugo Silva; and a North American premiere for Oscar-winning French director Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Cold Hell.

Fantasia, which is set to run July 13-Aug. 2, will unveil its full 2017 lineup July 5.



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Final 'Valerian' Trailer is Heavy on the Visuals


The final trailer for Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is less concerned with Dane DeHaan’s hero Valerian and more focused on all those planets.

Character and set design are both on full display in the teaser, which centers on Alpha, the 28th century metropolis filled with a variety of species of aliens — all of which live in harmony until an unknown force threatens their carefully crafted society.  

Valerian and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are shown jumping from one biome to the next, in pursuit of that mysterious threat.

At last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Besson said that he was excited for audiences to experience the characters and worlds that were created for the film with the help of his producer (and wife) Virginie Besson-Silla.

Valerian hits theaters July 21. 

Watch the trailer in the player below.



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