I need to go shopping for comic books after this.
Best French export in years.
It is 1912. The writer and adventurer, Adèle Blanc-Sec, has travelled to Egypt to retrieve the mummified remains of Patmosis, personal physician to Ramses II, so that she can have him revived and use his skills to heal her catatonic sister who was gravely injured in a tennis accident involving a hatpin. Meanwhile back in Paris, a pterodactyl has hatched from its 125 million-year-old egg and is terrorising the city, to the consternation of Inspecteur Caponi of the Gendarme. Only one person will be able to stop the beast: Mademoiselle Adèle.
This film has got Luc Besson written all over it. Fantasy elements, a witty and wicked sense of humour, a strong (and beautiful) young woman saving the day while bumbling men get in the way; who else but Besson would be behind this? Okay, who else but Besson and Joss Whedon would be behind this? Well, Jacques Tardi, that’s who. Tardi is the creator, writer and artist of the long-running series of Adèle comics, two volumes of which Luc Besson has taken inspiration from in developing his screenplay for this first in a supposed trilogy of films. This flick was released in 2010 and I can’t find any news on Adèle’s further Extraordinary Adventures, but I really hope they come to fruition because this is an absolute joy.
I had a whole paragraph written about how good the former weathergirl Louise Bourgoin is as Adèle, but it was starting to resemble one of the letters written by the character’s love-struck admirer Andrej (Nicolas Giraud). Suffice it to say, she is everything Angeline Jolie’s Lara Croft should have been, although she favours her wits over weapons to get herself out of tight spots (I wonder if anyone over at Eidos was a fan of Adèle when they were developing the first Tomb Raider game). While I loved her immediately, Adèle’s prominence in the movie does make all the other characters seem a bit underwritten by comparison, becoming little more than comic or moustache-twirlingly villainous stereotypes. Of course you’re so caught up in the story this doesn’t detract too much, but hopefully any more movies can expand on these side players a little. Personally, I want to see more of Adèle’s nemesis, the aforementioned moustache-twirler Dieuleveut, played by Mathieu Amalric done up to resemble The Childcatcher more than a suave Bond villain.
As you would expect from the man behind The Fifth Element, the world of Adèle Blanc-Sec is just as gorgeous as the lady herself. Production designer Hugues Tissandier has done a fantastic job combining the fantasy of the comics with a recognisable Paris. I don’t know if all the skyline shots of Paris are correct for the period, but do they need to be? It feels right, which for something like this is more important than absolute historical accuracy. There is a nice gag too about the inspiration behind the Louvre’s pyramid, as yet unbuilt.
Despite the lovely Adèle’s relaxed (but brief) nudity, this would be an excellent film to show for kids of about 11 or 12, provided they can handle the subtitles without too much complaint.