Review: THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC

rating: 4

(Rob's Cambridge review re-posted as the film is released in the U.K. today)Luc Besson's return to live action, following the dire 2006 animation Arthur and the Invisibles, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is an adaptation of an unusual Frenco-Belgian comic book series which follows a cynical, early twentieth century investigative journalist, whose globe-trotting adventures frequently involve fantastical and mystical goings on. The plot of this film concerns an expedition to Egypt undertaken in order to revive an ancient mummy, a Pharaoh's doctor, in the belief that he can cure Adèle's brain damaged twin sister. However, not only does this bring Adèle into conflict with those who would rather claim the treasures for themselves, but there is also a more pressing problem back home. The scientist Adèle is relying upon to revive the mummy has been placed on death row after hatching a pre-historic pterodactyl egg €“ the result being that the creature terrorises Paris, and its bumbling police force. If that sounds pretty insane, then that is a fair reflection of the film. There is a lot of CGI in the form of the giant dinosaur and an array of mummies, but also in terms of the locations and period detail. It is a film painted on a large scale canvas with characteristically broad brushstrokes. The characters are, by and large, larger than life caricatures €“ which won't surprise any familiar with Besson's previous films, such as The Fifth Element. It is a heightened reality, full of colour and quirky eccentric characters. It almost feels like a Jeunet film at times: like a sort of crazy mixture between Amelie and Indiana Jones, with dashes of a Night at the Museum movie thrown in for good measure. In this screen adaptation, Adèle Blanc-Sec is played by the relatively inexperienced TV presenter-turned actress, Louise Bourgoin, who strikes a quite brilliant balance here between world-weary cynicism and sassy charm. Bourgoin is funny and beautiful, and as a result the film is eminently watchable whilst she is on the screen €“ which happily is most the time. Compared to the rest of the cast, her performance strikes a low-key, which makes it all the more wonderful to watch. In this way, the exaggerated, mugging of the other actors compliments Bourgoin's portrayal rather well. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is rather an enjoyable watch. A funny, quirky little oddity of a movie. It is tonally bears greater similarity to The Fifth Element than to, say, Leon, in that it is a colourful comic book of a movie, which (I presume) is fitting of the source material. A light and fun comeback by a director now more famed for his work as a producer, boosted by a highly watchable central performance. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is released in the U.K. today.
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A regular film and video games contributor for What Culture, Robert also writes reviews and features for The Daily Telegraph, GamesIndustry.biz and The Big Picture Magazine as well as his own Beames on Film blog. He also has essays and reviews in a number of upcoming books by Intellect.