Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line, the ‘think­ing kid’s’ su­per­heroes

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

It may as yet be ob­scure in the English-speak­ing world, but the comic book se­ries on which the new mega-bud­get film “Va­le­rian and the City of a Thou­sand Plan­ets” is based has long been the think­ing kid’s fa­vorite else­where. The sci-fi he­roes on which “Fifth El­e­ment” di­rec­tor Luc Bes­son is bet­ting his rep­u­ta­tio­nand a colos­sal $180-mil­lion (158-mil­lion euro) bud­geth­ave fas­ci­nated gen­er­a­tions of Euro­pean chil­dren.

The French film-maker was swept away by the time­trav­el­ling “spa­tio-tem­po­ral agents” Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line as a 10-year-old reader of the leg­endary comic Pilote, edited by “As­terix” cre­ator Rene Goscinny, in which the strip first ap­peared. Th­ese were not the usual ma­cho su­per­heroes straight from Marvel cen­tral cast­ing, but think­ing lib­eral hu­man­ists with a green con­science-the most cere­bral of shoot-’em-up he­roes. Long be­fore Hol­ly­wood dis­cov­ered fe­male em­pow­er­ment, Lau­re­line was not only out­smart­ing her en­e­mies, she was also al­ways one step ahead of Va­le­rian, her brave, kind, but def­i­nitely dim­mer side­kick. Their cre­ators, artist Jean-Claude Mezieres and writer Pierre Christin, told AFP that that they were de­lighted Bes­son’s live-ac­tion fea­ture re­spects their char­ac­ters’ “hu­man­ist and anti-racist” spirit.

‘Spec­tac­u­lar py­rotech­nics’

Among only a hand­ful of peo­ple to have al­ready seen the film, which is due for re­lease in the US on July 21, the pair de­scribed the movie as “spec­tac­u­lar with lots of bat­tles and py­rotech­nics”. “I was a lit­tle wor­ried that it would end up look­ing like an Amer­i­can sci-fi film, the usual bat­tle be­tween good and evil with good win­ning in the end,” said Christin. “We al­ways wanted the books to be adapted for the screen, but a good comic strip doesn’t al­ways make a good film.

“I see now I needn’t have wor­ried,” said the 78-yearold au­thor. Al­though the film is not a di­rect adap­ta­tion, “there isn’t a gap be­tween the film and our books which would lead us to say, ‘We would never do any­thing like that,’” said Mezieres, who is also 78.

Cheeky hu­mor

Bes­son got the idea from the get-go, he said. “He was one of our read­ers when he was 10 so we never needed to ex­plain to him who Va­le­rian was. He un­der­stood.” Nei­ther of the cre­ators were di­rectly in­volved in the movie, the most ex­pen­sive in­de­pen­dent pro­duc­tion ever. “I don’t think it would have been a good idea for us to do the script,” Christin in­sisted.

“I never like work­ing again on things that I have al­ready done.” The friends be­gan the 23-book se­ries in 1967 with pretty con­ven­tional sto­ry­lines. But “Va­le­rian and Lau­re­line” quickly found its warp mode when the plots be­gan to deal with big univer­sal ques­tions, of­ten with cheeky hu­mor.

Christin and Mezieres’ aes­thetic and the world they cre­ated, with its em­pha­sis on tol­er­ance, op­ti­mism and per­se­ver­ance, would later be cred­ited with hav­ing a ma­jor in­flu­ence on “Star Wars” and Bes­son’s own “The Fifth El­e­ment”. Hav­ing al­ready sold five mil­lion copies of their books world­wide, they hope a Hol­ly­wood block­buster might bring more Asian and English­s­peak­ing fans into the fold in time for their 24th book, which will be pub­lished in French later this year. Mezieres said the sets for “Va­le­rian and the City of a Thou­sand Plan­ets” rely heav­ily on art­work from their books, but he was pleased at how they man­aged to “move them on”.

His only ma­jor quib­ble was with the cast­ing of the blonde Bri­tish model Cara Delev­ingne as the red-headed Lau­re­line. “I was a bit ret­i­cent about that,” he ad­mit­ted. “There are not ex­actly tons of models who go on to to be­come good ac­tresses.

How­ever, she has proved him wrong, he said. “Cara Delev­ingne wanted to be­come an ac­tress and she be­comes one in this film,” he said. —AFP

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