“Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec”

Last night, I watched Zero Dark Thirty, and while I will wait on my review of that film, I just want to comment on a few of the previews I saw before it began:

  • I saw previews for two (not one, but two!) films starring Dwayne Johnson: Pain & Gain (second time I had seen it) and Snitch. The first one looks great, actually (thanks to “The Rock” and Mark Wahlberg, and in spite of being directed by Michael Bay), while the second looks like an overly self-serious mess. I like “The Rock,” as he has oodles of charisma. I hope the first film lives up to the trailer.
  • The new Jackie Robinson film, 42, has a great preview, and I can’t wait to see it.
  • I saw, also for the second time, the preview for yet another Tom Cruise movie in which he plays a man named Jack, Oblivion, and while the premise seems interesting, the trailer is dreadful (as is the CGI).
  • Again for the second time, I saw the preview for Broken City – doubling is everywhere, as this one stars Mark Wahlberg, as well! – and I definitely want to see it.
  • Finally, the next M. Night Shyamlan mess is on the horizon – After Earth – and right after seeing the Oblivion trailer, and with all of the doubling up of stars in movies, it was all I could do to keep from yelling at the screen, “What is it with these post-apocalyptic films?” I also think it’s weird how Will Smith keeps on pushing his son as a movie star. I guess if it works . . . Will Smith is an appealing screen presence, so maybe his son will eventually become one, as well.

So here’s a review for a film that most of you have probably never even heard of. You’ve probably also never heard of the source material. I saw it a few weeks ago and have been waiting to post it for a moment when I had nothing else to review.

Adèle Blanc-Sec

Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (Luc Besson, 2010)

I am half-French, and was raised bi-culturally and bi-lingually. As a teenager, I loved the Adèle Blanc-Sec comic series, by Jacques Tardi. They were very “adult” (nudity! sex! violence!) yet appealing because of their quirky creativity, which blended historicity and science fiction. The graphic quality of the actual comic was extremely appealing, as well. In general, growing up as a kid who spent a lot of time in France exposed me to the great European comics, such as TintinAstérixLucky Luke, and the darkly brooding (and sexy and violent) works of Enki BilalAdèle Blanc-Sec bridged the gap between the child-friendly universe of Tintin, Astérix and Lucky Luke and the adults-only world of Bilal.

So I was interested in giving Luc Besson’s 2010 adaptation of the comics a look. And . . . I really liked the first half of this movie adaptation, but then hated the second half. Ah, Luc Besson, quel gachis de talent!

Adèle Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin – attractive, energetic, often just right, but limited in her overall appeal) is an early 20th-Century Parisian adventuress and journalist whom we first meet on an Indiana Jones-like expedition to Egypt, where she outwits a horde of bad guys (the lead one played by the great Mathieu Amalric). She successfully steals a mummy, whom she brings back to Paris to save her almost-dead sister. It turns out she is friends with a mystic French scientist who can raise and control long-dead creatures. At the beginning of the film, this scientist causes a pterodactyl egg in a natural history museum to produce a long-dormant baby pterodactyl. Blanc-Sec hopes that this scientist will bring the mummy back to life, so that the mummy (an ancient Egyptian doctor) can cure her sister.

Confused? You should be! But in the comics, this all works. Here, it works, as well (in spite of the unfortunate first world/third world dynamics of the opening), until Blanc-Sec and her scientist revive the mummy. After which the film becomes an exercise in stupidity and bad CGI. It becomes just like every other Luc Besson since The Professional, in other words.  Besson is not without talent: his first feature, Le dernier combat, is a highly engaging black & white sci-fi post-apocalyptic parable. But slowly, over the years, he has gone the way of a George Lucas, seeming to enjoy technology for its own sake, rather than figuring out how to have it help the story. C’est un petit garçon qui veut see jous jous!

So if you ever have a chance to check out the movie, stop halfway!

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