Credit: Vikram Gounassegarin

Luc Besson got an enthusiastic Hall H standing ovation — and an Inkpot Award! — after previewing a few scenes from next year’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets at San Diego Comic-Con. Unbelievably, it was Besson’s first time to Comic-Con — though the audience made it clear that his previous film such as The Professional and The Fifth Element are ones kept near and dear to the community.

It’s films such as those that led to him being was surprised onstage with the Inkpot Award, which he kept on the podium, telling the audience: “Can I make a deal with you? If you don’t mind, I’m going to put it here and after I show you [the footage], if you still think I deserve it I’ll take it.”

(Spoiler: the audience was well in agreement.)

The film only wrapped five weeks ago — it will be in theaters July 21, 2017 — and stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, who play space-traveling duo Valerian and Laureline. The source material comes from the French comic book first published in 1967 that’s inspired both Star Wars and Avatar. Besson says he fell in love with the comic and characters since the age of 10, and has been wanting to make a film version pretty much since then.

The seven minutes of footage shown in Hall H showcased a badass Laureline (Cara Delevingne), a comedic Valerian (DeHaan), a glimpse of Rihanna, and plenty of new alien species. In one scene, Laureline is marched down a hallway by two burly captors. “Don’t you think you should cuff me?” she tells them before beating them up and escaping. In another scene, Valerian is scene hopping through dimensions.

“It’s unbelievable. That’s the second time I’ve seen that [footage] and it looks so cool,” remarked DeHaan. “I described [Valerian] earlier as a space bro. He thinks of himself as the most capable soldier in the universe, there’s a lot of luck on his side, and he’d be nothing without Laureline.”

Delevingne, for her part, described her character as a “strong, independent, hardworking, determined individual.” She added, “They wouldn’t be able to do what they do without each other. … It’s a wonderful thing to be in such an incredible pairing.”

When asked what he looked for in his actors, Besson added, “I want actors passionate. My fear was someone taking a job. I just need to be sure that they want to be part of it and give everything. I give everything. I need to be sure that they would be there. Then, I need to be sure that they’re talented. We made a lot of tests. I pushed them, pushed them pushed them. They’re so good.”

Rihanna, who in the footage appeared alongside DeHann in what appeared to be a nightclub, is playing a mystery character.

“People keep asking who she plays in the movie. Really, guys, you don’t even know,” DeHaan told the crowd. “Rihanna’s part is so crazy. It’s so awesome. I worked with her for two weeks of the shoot, when I told people what I was going to do for the shoot their jaws were on the floor and so jealous.”

The panel, which also included glimpses of concept art for the film and a number of its alien creatures, concluded with the panelists and entire audience taking a massive group selfie:

Entertainment Weekly is on the scene at San Diego Comic-Con. Go inside with all our coverage, available here.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
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