It's impossible to watch the trailer for VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS and not compare it to THE FIFTH ELEMENT. After all, both are based on the same series of French science fiction comics, Valérian and Laureline. From the color palette interspersed with lurid splashes of neon orange to ass-kicking female protagonists, both films are an ode to Luc Besson's love of the 1960s space opera.
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is THE FIFTH ELEMENT that director Luc Besson wanted to make in 1997. While the latter has become a cult classic, his original vision was admittedly limited by the VFX technology of the '90s. Now, 20 years later, Besson is once again unleashing the full power of his signature style on the cinematic sci-fi world.
The two films have more in common than you might think. There are multiple commonalities between the storylines, their worlds, even the characters. Could there be more to the two films' connection than just the source material? Could Valerian be the exact same world Besson introduced us to back in 1997? With THE FIFTH ELEMENT set in the 23rd century, and Valerian 500 years later, it's not entirely inconceivable.
Valerian already looks set to be a stunning sci-fi epic, but the possibility of it being part of THE FIFTH ELEMENT universe — or better yet, a sequel — would take its impact to the next level. Let's delve into the striking similarities so you can decide for yourself.
A Familiar Scene
With the trailer for VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, the sense of deja vu is real. Indeed, many of the shots are almost identical to scenes from THE FIFTH ELEMENT. The uncanny resemblance might be auteur Besson's stylistic choice, or it could be a hint that the two stories share more than just the same aesthetic. VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS of course features the same signature vertical city layout as both THE FIFTH ELEMENT and the original comics. Not to mention those crisp, white sci-fi interiors and soft edges and the circuit boards tended to by these Valerian aliens are reminiscent of the alien hieroglyphs that decorate the Egyptian tomb in THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Could there be a link between their kind and the origin of the tomb?
Besson promises VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS will contain hundreds of alien species, though some of them look a lot like the few that were featured in THE FIFTH ELEMENT. We wonder if they're related species.
Despite having a different costume designer, it seems like the characters in VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS inherited a few key wardrobe pieces, or at least took some serious style inspiration from THE FIFTH ELEMENT fashionistas. Jean-Paul Gaultier's stunning designs were a big part of what made that film so memorable, and his legacy has been honored in Valerian.
For example, Laureline and Valerian's spacesuits bear a striking resemblance to the protective armor of the Mondoshawans. They also appear to be big fans of the Korben Dallas look, with elements of his own style reflected in outfits worn by both our protagonists.
The uniforms of government officials in both films also look alike. The muted colors, streamlined collars and sharp silhouettes have a very authoritarian Star Trek vibe. The similarities between the clothing worn by the presidential staff of THE FIFTH ELEMENT and the officers of VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS might suggest they're part of the same regime.
Undoubtedly the most obvious ode to Gaultier's raunchy cut-out dresses worn by THE FIFTH ELEMENT flight attendants is Rihanna's sexy nurse outfit in Valerian. Both looks feature bodycon skirts with the same bustier cut, accessorized with pillbox hats and a bob 'do. But there's one interesting detail in Rihanna's outfit that may be hinting at something deeper — the curved slit in the dress just below her navel, outlined in red. It's the same place where Korben Dallas cut open the Diva Plavalaguna in order to retrieve the stones in THE FIFTH ELEMENT. It may be a nod to Besson's first sci-fi endeavor — or it might just be Rihanna's character honoring a historical figure who played an important role in saving her world some 300 years earlier.
A Classic Tale
Visuals aside, the narratives of both films seem inexplicably linked. Not a whole lot is known about the story of Valerian at this stage, but the premise so far is this: A wise, peaceful and musically inclined alien species requires the help of humans to eliminate an unknown threat to the world:
Centuries of peace and prosperity, an unknown force wants to destroy all we have created. Sound familiar?
The evil, villainous force in THE FIFTH ELEMENT isn't set to return for another 4,700 years, but perhaps Mr. Shadow has decided to make a surprising early visit.
As "guardians of our future," the two heroes in Valerian have just 10 hours to find the ominous force that threatens their world and defeat it. As in THE FIFTH ELEMENT, it's a story that plays out in a small window of time, forcing the protagonists to race against the clock.
What's interesting about VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS's two leads is the way they can be compared to The Fifth Element's Leeloo and Korben. While it would be an easy (and cheap) move for Besson to pin Laureline as the new Leeloo and Valerian as the new Korben, THE FIFTH ELEMENT's original duo are reflected in each of the new characters.
This is especially evident with Laureline. While we do see her unleashing impressive kickboxing skills on her foes in the trailer, there are also shots that parallel Korben in THE FIFTH ELEMENT, such as this one:
Emphasizing the connection between THE FIFTH ELEMENT's macho male action hero and Cara Delevingne's character in Valerian not only seems like a step in the right direction for Besson, but also an insight into her roots. For all we know, Laureline could be the descendant of both Korben and Leeloo.
Is VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS Actually A Fifth Element Sequel?
As much as we can speculate over the connection between THE FIFTH ELEMENT and VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, we can't know for sure until the film comes out. Granted, from what we've seen so far, there's a strong chance the two movies are at least part of the same universe.
Regardless of how it transpires, it's clear that VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS represents THE FIFTH ELEMENT's full potential finally come to life. And as much as Besson's 1997 sci-fi hit will always have a special place in the hearts of fans everywhere, Valerian looks to be the perfect (unofficial) sequel.
Catch VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS in theaters July 21.