Rihanna to star in 'Valerian': How Luc Besson's work separates itself

Besson is adapting 'Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets' from a graphic novel, but some of his most well-known science fiction movies like 'Lucy' and 'The Fifth Element' have been more original stories.

Thibault Camus/AP
Rihanna will reportedly star in the movie 'Valérian.'

Singer Rihanna will reportedly star in the upcoming science fiction film, “Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”

She has previously appeared in such films as “Battleship” and the animated movie, “Home.”

“Valérian” is adapted from a graphic novel by Jean-Claude Mezieres and Pierre Christin. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” actor Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne of “Pan,” and actor Clive Owen are all set to star in the movie as well.

Besson has directed films of various genres, including the 1994 crime movie, “The Professional,” and the 2013 mafia movie, “The Family.” But Besson has also directed several high-profile science fiction movies, including last year’s movie, “Lucy,” and the 1997 film, “The Fifth Element,” making his one of the most familiar director’s names to sci-fi fans today. 

While “Valérian” is an adaptation of a graphic novel, “Lucy” and his movie “The Fifth Element” are original stories. Many recent high-profile science fiction projects aren’t based on original ideas. While the world of “Star Wars” was new back in 1977, the continuing film series are, of course, sequels and based on the characters already written by others. This year’s hit, “The Martian,” was based on a novel, as was the 2014 movie, “Edge of Tomorrow.” 

Creating a new science fiction movie based on an original story is not a sure proposition. In 2014, director Christopher Nolan had a hit with the movie, “Interstellar,” and Alfonso Cuaron’s 2013 movie, “Gravity,” also scored.

But this year’s movie, “Jupiter Ascending,” which was written by the Wachowski siblings of the acclaimed movie, “The Matrix,” was panned by critics and did not do well at the box office. 2013’s “Elysium” and this year’s “Chappie,” the newest movies dreamed up by Neill Blomkamp of the well-received science fiction movie, “District 9,” also did not meet with good reviews or positive box office results. 

What would make an original science fiction movie good today?

Prior to its release, “Jupiter,” to examine one film, attracted attention because it’s a big-budget movie based on an original story, a rarity in general in Hollywood today. As with any movie, an original science fiction movie would need an intriguing storyline. The storyline in particular of “Jupiter” was criticized by critics, with Manohla Dargis of The New York Times writing that “the mind reels from some of the mildewy storytelling… the tale is at once baroque and corny” and the Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan writing that “the plot details are more than usually derivative.”

Writing an original story that catches audience members’ imagination is easier said than done. But one of the most acclaimed science fiction movies of recent years was Pixar’s animated film, “WALL-E,” which centers on a robot living many years in our future during a time when humans have abandoned Earth. Critics praised its story and the film was nominated for the best original screenplay Oscar, a category more often populated by live-action movies. 

Focusing on story may be the key to success for future science fiction screenwriters, whether it’s Besson, turning again to an original story, or another scribe.

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