Friday, July 13, 2012

Movie Review - Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec

Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec
Based on the comic books by Jacques Tardi
Release Date: April 14th, 2010
Starring: Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche,Jean-Paul Rouve, Jacky Nercessian, Philippe Nahon, Nicolas Giraud
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

It is the Belle Époque, an age of new technology and discovery in Paris. The last thing anyone would expect to be flying overhead is a pterodactyl. They haven't flown on the Earth for 136 million years. Yet, clearly, there is a pterodactyl on the loose reigning terror from the skies. Adèle Blanc-Sec, a journalist and travel writer of some renown, is off in Egypt looking for a very specific mummy, instead of being on assignment in South America, blissfully unaware of what she has started back in Paris. It all started because of a stupid accident and now Adèle thinks she has found the best way to set it right. With the mummified remains of Ramesses II's doctor. The pterodactyl is an unexpected consequence.

Yet, she and Professor Espérandieu where hesitant to use the mummy right away because they only have one chance to bring him back. Hence, the dinosaur. The dinosaur which has landed Professor Espérandieu in prison. So now Adèle must not only break out the Professor, but she must also get that dinosaur under control. Working against the clock and against the police, as well as a big game hunter, she must locate the dinosaur and set everything to right, even that long ago stupid accident. With the help of her love-struck stalker, Andrej Zborowski, perhaps Paris will return to normal and Adèle can get a well deserved vacation.

I quite literally did not know what to expect with this movie. Most of the Steampunk world has lauded this movie and the comics, even having a viewing of the movie at last year's Teslacon. I was hesitant to watch the movie because I wasn't really a fan of the comics. Well, I should say the ones I was able to read, because only the first four tales are currently available translated to English. I greatly admired the art in the book, especially Adèle's style, her clothes alone are a reason to love her, yet all the male characters looked the same, adding to utter confusion on my part, while by the second collection, Tardi is breaking the forth wall and comically joking that it must be hard to follow, sorry Jacques, it was hard to follow so your joke not only fell flat, but pissed me off more than a little. The movie was based on elements from the first story, Adèle and the Beast and the fourth story, Mummies on Parade.

Within the first few minutes I was scared that the movie was going to be a total disaster, the Papyrus/Herculaneum opening credits font did nothing to dispel this fear. Not only was the spelling atrocious in the closed captioning (good is not spelled god, and it's the 20th century, not the 200th, and getting Adèle right only 50% of the time isn't god, oh, I mean good), and it was so fast I had to rewind a lot, and some of the make-up was so comical I thought I was watching Dick Tracy. Now comical makeup can work, but when you have normal looking people next to comical people, it doesn't look right. I don't count Madonna as "normal" looking if we are to stick with the Dick Tracy metaphor. Yet, somehow I was quickly pushing these problems aside and just having fun with it. I suspect it was the fact that Egypt quickly made an appearance, and more strongly suspect it was how Adèle handled a camel that brought the first real laugh to my mouth.

Yet really I have to thank Besson, he understands the concept of "based on." He streamlined the narrative from the comics. Made them intelligible and a fun romp, instead of a confusing read. Maybe, in truth, the comics just always needed a bigger venue to tell their story and a movie was exactly what was needed all along. Plus, daring rescues with dinosaurs don't look nearly as impressive in one of two frames of a comic, as they do on the big screen. I sincerely hope that they get the chance to continue this series, because it was funny and sweet and has a humdinger of a cliffhanger, which I would love to see Besson's interpretation of.


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