Scarlett Johansson

Luc Besson's epic sci-fi gamble with 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets'

Luc Besson's epic sci-fi gamble with 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets'

Luc Besson was feeling a little discombobulated.

On a recent afternoon, the French director of such films as “La Femme Nikita,” “The Fifth Element” and “Lucy” sat in a Los Angeles multiplex, where he had just introduced a preview screening of his latest movie, the gonzo space opera “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” Besson himself was in the midst of hopping around the cities of this planet to promote the film, which opens Friday. Hours earlier, he’d flown in from Paris. The day before, he had been in Shanghai.

“When you’re in the rush of finishing a movie, there are so many things to do,” he said, picking at a plate of cheese and crackers for sustenance. “It’s...

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