In a day for internationally renowned directors making their Hall H debuts, the French filmmaker and Europacorp chief quickly found his footing in San Diego as he shared first images and footage from Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets.

Besson, who finished shooting five weeks ago, said he still had a sizeable amount of the 2,734 FX shots to complete and expected the film to be finished in ten months. It is scheduled to open in exactly one year’s time on July 21, 2017.

Ever the showman, the director of such cult favourites as Leon, The Fifth Element and recent global hit Lucy brought footage with him.

What became immediately clear was that in Cara Delevingne he has found his latest female action hero.

The former British model plays the eponymous character’s companion and then some as Laureline and is shown battling guards, flying a spaceship and avoiding all manner of deep space mayhem hand-in-hand with Valerian.

Hall H attendees seemed impressed by the depth of the visually rich worlds on offer and a range of characters and species, of which there will be more than 200 on display.

Delevingne and Dane DeHaan, who portrays Valerian, lapped up the crowd’s adulation as the footage and a series of images introduced by Besson’s wife and producer Virginie Besson-Silla drew prolonged applause.

Besson has long wanted to adapt Valerian, based on Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézieres’ bestselling French comic book series that launched in 1967.

However years ago the technology was not up to speed. By way of example he noted that The Fifth Element, which came out in 1997, contained approximately 200 FX shorts – ten times less than his current project.

He recounted the familiar story of how he wrote his first script for Valerian and tore it up when Avatar came out.

That drew a laugh from the crowd but Besson was quick to praise the generosity of director James Cameron, who has has offered support, invited him on to set and compared notes.

Besson is well aware Cameron’s Avatar sequels will most likely generate more money than his filmand served up a slice of Gallic mischief for the crowd.

“It’s like running with Usain Bolt,” he said. “He is going to win, but you’re going to be scared of me. You’re going to feel my breath on your fucking shoulder.”

A glimpse in the footage of music superstar Rihanna drew this from DeHaan when asked to talk about her role: “You don’t know. Rihanna’s part is so crazy.”