Okay, I think it’s safe to say I am officially too excited about Luc Besson’s now-filming Valerian and the City Of A Thousand Planets.

It was Wondercon three years ago where I spoke to Besson about the film for the first time. I was moderating the panel for Lucy, his Scarlett Johansson action film, and as we wrapped up the panel and chatted backstage, he brought up the still-untitled project and talked about how he made The Fifth Element at the exact wrong moment, just before CGI caught up with his ambitions. It was clear that he was excited at the prospect of using modern film technology to tell a science-fiction story on a scale that he would have never previously tried, and seeing Besson that excited about an upcoming film was infectious.

Now he’s given a sneak peek of the film to Entertainment Weekly, and it sounds like that excitement has only gotten more profound on his part. They mention that Valerian features 2400 visual FX shots, which is a fairly staggering number, but that sort of thing isn’t what gets me giddy about the film we will see sometime next year. Instead, it’s Besson’s joy that is so clear when you look at his Twitter feed, where he’s been sharing behind-the-scenes shots for the entire shoot, and when you read the interview he did with Joe McGovern, he’s almost giddy.

“Let’s try to do everything, before someone tells me it’s impossible. Let’s have the imagination go to the limit. And let’s be so super complicated with aliens and robots and all this, but to make it look easy like a dance. You watch the thing, and it’s fluid and funny and wild. It’s not deep and complicated. It’s ultra sophisticated to do, but it looks easy. Like a cocktail where you don’t even taste the alcohol.”

Those are the most dangerous ones, of course, and I like Besson working in this mode. I think he’s got a marvelous visual imagination, and he’s certainly made some lasting images in his other films. In the 19 years since it came out, The Fifth Element has aged beautifully, and there are certainly touches in the behind-the-scenes images and in these newly released pictures that make me think of that movie. The idea that he’s taking all of that energy and imagination and then escalating it to a whole different level is thrilling.

These early photos don’t really suggest the scope of the film, and there’s no sign of co-stars like Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, John Goodman, or Herbie Hancock (!?!?!) in any of the pictures. The official synopsis does a better job of laying out what to expect from the film, and I am entertained by the thought of the relationship between Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureling (Cara Delevingne) as described here:

Rooted in the classic graphic novel series, Valerian and Laureline- visionary writer/director Luc Besson advances this iconic source material into a contemporary, unique and epic science fiction saga.
Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are special operatives for the government of the human territories charged with maintaining order throughout the universe. Valerian has more in mind than a professional relationship with his partner- blatantly chasing after her with propositions of romance. But his extensive history with women, and her traditional values, drive Laureline to continuously rebuff him.
Under directive from their Commander (Clive Owen), Valerian and Laureline embark on a mission to the breathtaking intergalactic city of Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis comprised of thousands of different species from all four corners of the universe. Alpha's seventeen million inhabitants have converged over time- uniting their talents, technology and resources for the betterment of all. Unfortunately, not everyone on Alpha shares in these same objectives; in fact, unseen forces are at work, placing our race in great danger.

There’s a long way to go before this one’s ready, and there are plenty of secrets that Besson’s going to try to keep until the film hits theaters, but this early glimpse at what he’s doing is enough to have me ready to hand over my $15 as soon as humanly possible.

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets will be in theaters July 21, 2017.

A respected critic and commentator for fifteen years, Drew McWeeny helped create the online film community as "Moriarty" at Ain't It Cool News, and now proudly leads two budding Film Nerds in their ongoing movie education.