By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a fun roving adventure featuring a very comely adventuress going up against a whole bevy of supernatural creatures. Some are helpful whereas others become a hindrance in her quest to find a cure for her twin sister, who suffers from quite literally a needle in her head. This pain caused her paralysis and ever since that accident, Adèle has taken care of her. Her love for her sibling is above all else, including their rivalry that most siblings have for attention as they grow up.
In a film originally released in 2010 in France, notice elsewhere around the world depended on whether readers of the comic book of the same name kept track of new developments that is still ongoing. Artist/writer Jacques Tardi created this seminal heroine back in 1976 where she dealt with not only the weird but also the what the hell?
The movie directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) combines several strips from the books, namely Le Démon de la Tour Eiffel (The Demon of the Eiffel Tower), Adèle et la Bête (Adèle and the Beast), and Momies en folie (Mummies on Parade), into a nicely coherent narrative that flows from one tale to another. Throughout the story, this director successfully keeps the mood light. He brings the same kind of campy fun atmosphere that’s found in Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy trilogy . Much of that feeling comes from a delightful soundtrack that Eric Serra helped orchestrate. The flavour of French ragtime, if there is such a genre, will have some people want to dance in the streets. Even some classical scores, like In the Hall of the Mountain King, is used to great comedic effect.
Louise Bourgoin is wonderful as Adèle Blanc-sec. She brings a natural feistiness that really works when viewers are watching this movie in its native language. The English dub is quite decent too, and no detail is lost in translation. This movie is available in North America through Shout! Factory as a two-disc release containing both the Blu-ray and DVD. An international Blu-ray only release is also available that’s released by Les Films Seville. Both editions have the same bonus materials — a series of shorts establishing Adèle and Agathe’s sisterly relationship throughout the years, a behind the scenes look at the making of the prison scene with Adèle, a musical vignette and making of documentary. The first piece is the most amusing and is worth viewing time and time again before watching the movie itself. No explanation is offered as to why they were cut from the movie other than to keep the running time short. Maybe a future edition will offer a translated director’s commentary.
Even though much of the film departs from the world of Ancient Egypt, the mummies that lurk nearby, including the one Adèle stole from a crypt and keeps in her apartment, have a purpose. Part of it stems in the belief many people from the Victorian age held about relics from the past. It was once thought that drinking the ashes from a crushed mummy could heal the ill! When considering the mummy of Patmosis she took may be the royal physician of Ramesses the II, what she hoped to do was not so much to cremate him to make a miracle elixir but to somehow wake the good doctor up since his knowledge of the human body is better than what the French knew about medicine in the Edwardian age. Much of this film’s plot centers on her finding the people who can help her reanimate the corpse.
Thankfully Adèle’s adventures do not end with her finding a cure for her sister. The comic book featuring her encounters with the supernatural continues and the hope is for Besson to make more films in this universe. Even though the ending of this film is ominous, she can be one of the survivors of the ill-fated maiden voyage of a famous ship. Fun popcorn epics are hard to make, and for Besson, he nails it. Let’s hope he does not the miss the boat in what could be a lucrative franchise.
4 Stars out of 5