What director Luc Besson really thinks of Marvel

The director of "Valerian" talks to CNET about his new movie, Hollywood and Marvel’s superhero franchise. Pink tights and American propaganda may follow.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
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Jennifer Bisset
3 min read
Watch this: Luc Besson isn't afraid to dish on Marvel

"Well they're absolutely brilliant."

That's the first thing French director Luc Besson says about Marvel when he sits down to discuss a semi-related topic -- his new movie, "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets." But that's not all he says. Asking the writer-director behind sci-fi films "The Fifth Element" and "Lucy" about Marvel seemed risky. After all, he has his own production company called EuropaCorp and he's previously expressed not-so-rosy opinions on Hollywood and all that.

Still, Besson emphasised the positive first.

"They know their job for sure," he continued. "I'm a huge fan of a few of them, especially a couple of years ago."

Besson's new movie adapts a French comic book that inspired the space opera franchise Star Wars  as well as "The Fifth Element." His film "Lucy", about a woman who gains powers from a drug, is basically his take on the superhero movie genre.


Dane DeHaan is Valerian and Cara Delevingne is Lauraline in "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets."


"Most sci-fi movies are very dark and depressing and usually self-centered about the superhero and that's it," Besson said. "It's too classical for me. The future is such an open gate on everything, so why not try crazy stuff."

With so many other sci-fi films crowding cinemas this year ("Star Wars: The Last Jedi", "Blade Runner 2049", "The Dark Tower"), Besson says "Valerian" has the necessary supplement for your film diet.

"If at the end of the day it's always the same Hollywood film, then we are losing vitamins as a moviegoer. If you watch over and over, if you go every day, eating on the fast food, you will need some iron, some zinc, some vitamin C, B, A. So I'm a supplement for vitamins."


Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland in Marvel's "Spider-Man: Homecoming."

Sony Pictures

So, back to what you're here to read. After his initial praise, Besson had not-so-rosy opinions on Marvel.

"I'm less a fan now, because it became so much of a machine and so much propaganda," he said. "It's really showing the power of America, ruling the entire world, saving the poor people that we are."

In "Avengers: Age of Ultron", the Avengers waltz into the sovereign nations of Sokovia and Wakanda and cause mass destruction, and in "Captain America: Civil War" many of them refuse to submit to international government oversight.

"I think that no country around the world would have the guts to call the film Captain Australia or Captain France and only Americans are able to call it Captain America. I'm just a little fed up with this propaganda, pro-American power thing. Sci-fi is larger than that."


Besson is a huge fan of the "Valerian" comics.


"Valerian" draws its values from a different well. The titular City of a Thousand Planets refers to Alpha, a universal space station for millions of species to exchange knowledge.

"And that's what Valerian is, it's about unity," Besson said. "In the film we all live together. Even dealing with 800,000 species of aliens, we have to share, to share knowledge, culture and that's more the message I am for. Rather than to show the supremacy of one of us. I was really bothered by that in fact.

"We always say there's two territories: there's the US and the rest of the world. They are very protectionist. They like their superheroes with tights who show the power of United States and who defend us against ugly aliens. My point of view is really different. So there is a lot of Americans who are not ready for that because they want to see a hero with big muscles and fighting. When they like it they really love it. 'Fifth Element' was not so big at the time and 'Leon' either, and 'Nikita' either.

"I love the US, I love them, but I think that I'm definitely European and there's a thing of mentality that we cannot change."

Now for the outfits.

"Why all these superheroes are in tights? I mean we invent so much new material, why do they have pink tights and blue tights? To me it sounds a little bit ridiculous."

Despite his reservations about Marvel, Besson isn't advocating removing superhero movies from your diet.

"I want people to have the choice and to have two kinds of different things. They can watch both, it's fine. It's not one against the other."  

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