The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a film I don’t even remember hitting UK cinemas back in April, but you soon realise the reason why it had a limited release.
The opening credits set it up as an intriguing female Indiana Jones-style adventure, the kind of thing a studio would turn into a franchise if they got the chance. The film also starts with a rambling voiceover that lasts over ten minutes.
The year is 1911, when women did the Can Can and men had the most ridiculous moustaches of all time. Professor Marie-Joseph Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian) is an elderly man who got a degree in physics at the age of 16 and, 35 years later, his research resulted in a book, “Is there life after death?” Then cut to a pterodactyl hatching from an egg in the archaeological museum by the Seine, which we lean is somehow taking its movements from the Professor who’s back at home.
Adèle Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin) is a woman who writes novels about her adventures and her publisher has just sent her off to unravel the mystery of the last Incas. When we meet her, she and her band of not very merry men climb down into an Egyptian tomb that was once used to prepare mummies. Upon opening a secret door, she finds a gun pointed at her head, thanks to the inhospitable treatment of her compatriots.
The Indiana Jones comparisons continue when, instead of the Nazis, here we have Professor Dieuleveult (an unrecognisable Mathieu Amalric with a whole heap of prosthetics on – or perhaps he’s just in hiding after appearing as baddie Dominic Greene in the last James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, which was just appalling) and his henchmen to break up the party.
Adèle has come to seek out the tomb of Patmosis, a professor of medicine and the personal doctor of Ramses II. Apparently he was the greatest medical expert in Ancient Egypt and she needs him to make her sister better – apparently a twin even though they don’t look alike – who fell into a sort-of wide awake coma after a bizarre and unfortunate accident during a game of tennis, which has left a hatpin sticking through her brain from back to front, although given that fact he’s practically carbonised I don’t see how that will help her. Well, that’s where Professor Espérandieu’s book comes into play in resurrecting the doc…
The movie has a great visual style, as you’d expect from Besson, but it is rather a mess, and not one that I found particularly engaging. That said, there are some amusing moments as Adèle sneaks in to try and rescue the Professor.
The problem with The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is that she has no extraordinary adventures. There’s just a pterodactyl flying round all the time which only Professor Espérandieu is able to control, but then he’s due to be put to death shortly, so cue another problem for our heroine to resolve. There’s a greedy cop Inspecteur Caponi (Gilles Lellouche) and a whole host of implausible French characters, usually with silly ‘taches and often fat, so it’s just stereotype-city. Oh, and throw in a 23-year-old scientist, Andrej Zborowski (Nicolas Giraud), who’s in love with Adele, just to add to the unpredictability.
Overall, I’m not really sure who this will appeal to. It’s too silly for adults and while elements of it would suit young children, the subtitles will put them off and the brief bit of nudity with Louise Bourgoin in the bath will preclude it from being shown before the watershed when it comes to TV.
Presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, there’s nothing to complain about with the picture which looks crisp and clear throughout, bringing the evocative look of the period to the screen. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 37″ Plasma screen via a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
Audio-wise, the film is presented in DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio and does make use of this early one when it starts off being all ‘Indiana Jones’, but then scales back on this when there’s far too little going on during the majority of the rest of the film.
The extras are as follows:
- Making Of (26:04): A three-part segment looking at the Genesis of the film and how Luc Besson came to work with the creator of the comic books, Jacques Tardi as well as casting Louise Bourgoin as Adele; using special effects to recreate the Paris of 1911, as so many things have now changed; as well as the relationship between Adele and her sister.
- Interviews: with Luc Besson, Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Jacky Nercessian and a Cinemoi Interview with Luc Besson. I’ve not sat through these myself, but they’re there if you do want to hear a lot more from all of the key cast members as well as Luc Besson.
- In The Studio (4:59): Firstly we see Louise Bourgoin singing in the studio, and then a very weird song with even weirder animation is played.
- Trailer (1:35): In the 2.35:1 original theatrical ratio, and one which makes it look far better than it actually is, generally because it takes too much footage from the best bit at the beginning.
The menu features clips of the film set against the movie’s theme. There are subtitles in English only and the total number of chapters is a paltry 12. At nearly two hours, this film needs twice as many.
Prior to the menu are several trailers, all of which should not be placed there – they should be in the main menu’s extras, hence I’m not listing them here. Would you believe there’s also TWO adverts for products you can buy in the shops? This is getting out of hand. We’re not in the days of rental video now, and I have pointed this out to Optimum before now.
Running time: 107 minutes
Cat no: OPTDBD1850
Released: August 2011
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Luc Besson
Producer: Virginie Silla
Screenplay: Luc Besson (based on the comic books by Jacques Tardi)
Music: Eric Serra
Adèle Blanc-Sec: Louise Bourgoin
Professor Dieuleveult: Mathieu Amalric
Inspecteur Albert Caponi: Gilles Lellouche
Justin de Saint-Hubert: Jean-Paul Rouve
Marie-Joseph Espérandieu: Jacky Nercessian
Le professeur Ménard: Philippe Nahon
Andrej Zborowski: Nicolas Giraud
Agathe Blanc-Sec: Laure de Clermont
Président Armand Fallières: Gérard Chaillou
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.