Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the new film by Luc Besson adapted from the science-fiction comic strip series by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières that inspired a whole generation of artists, writers and film-makers… including Georges Lucas.
In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) form a team of spatiotemporal agents responsible for maintaining order in the human territories. Mandated by the Department of Defense, the duo sets out on a mission to the extraordinary intergalactic city, Alpha — a constantly expanding metropolis where species that from the entire universe have converged over the centuries to share their knowledge, expertise, and culture. At the centre of Alpha a mysterious dark force is hiding, and threatening the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets. Valerian and Laureline must undertake a race against the clock to identify the terrible threat and to save not only Alpha, but the future of the universe.
Adapted from a science-fiction comic strip series
Written by Pierre Christin and drawn by Jean-Claude Mézières, “Valérian a spatiotemporal agent”, was a fan favorite comic book in Europe from its debut in 1967 to the ending in 2010.
The series’ premise is that an organization called Galaxity, based in the 28th Century, protects all of time and space. In the first adventure, spatiotemporal agent Valerian is sent to medieval France to stop a time-travelling villain. While there, he is aided by a young native woman, Laureline. Valerian returns to the 28th Century with Laureline, who is trained as a spatiotemporal agent.
Through 21 volumes, Valerian and Laureline travel as partners — both professional and romantic — through space and time to resolve conflicts and foil villainous plots.
Arguably the heart of the comics, Laureline is a remarkably powerful, and believable, feminist figure who still resonates today as a “very modern heroine”— though Laureline first arrived in an age when women in sci-fi were rarely presented as more than crude stereotypes.
Valerian versus Star Wars
If you have seen the original Star Wars trilogy, you have seen the largely uncredited influence of Jean-Claude Mézières, whose background was not in industrial design but in illustration.
A variety of sources – Flash Gordon movie serials, the Akira Kurosawa's films, and mythological hero narratives, among others – influenced the creation of the Star Wars franchise. But some argue that an uncredited influence on Star Wars is the Valerian and Laureline comicbook series.
Valerian and Laureline depicts designs and adventures that are similar to some elements in the Star Wars films.
There are visual similarities (wings, long snout) between the recurring alien race the Shingouz, who Valerian and Laureline first encounter in Ambassador of the Shadows (1975), and the Star Wars character Watto in The Phantom Menace (1999).
In Sci-Fi Chronicles: A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Fiction, contributor Matt Bielby details some of the designs and concepts in the Star Wars films that are similar to elements that first appeared in the French comic: “The slave-girl outfit that Laureline wore in a 1972 adventure appears to have inspired Princess Leia Organa’s costume in The Return of the Jedi (1983). Other elements of Star Wars that seem indebted to the French strip include the Millennium Falcon, Luke falling from Cloud City, Han in carbonite, Darth Vader’s scarred face and the concept of clone armies – indeed, on first seeing the George Lucas film, Mézières was said to have been ‘furious.'”
Lucas never responded to Mézières’ inquiries about the similarities between Star Wars and Valerian and Laureline, nor has he ever mentioned Valerian and Laureline as an influence on his films. This may be because the French comic was relatively obscure in the U.S. and didn’t appear in translation until 1981.
With Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, it could be time of revenge for the French team…