I highly recommend Luc Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec. Globe-trotting adventure, over-the-top comedy, extravagant costumes, Egyptian tomb-raiding, and a rampaging pterodactyl… this movie has all of that and more.
And it just arrived on Netflix.
Now, before you set your hopes too high, let me clarify: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a very silly movie. It’ll remind you of the goofiest Indiana Jones adventures. But it never aims to be anything more serious or sophisticated than a good-humored, old-fashioned adventure.
In fact, it’s based on a 1976 comic book adventure written and illustrated by Jacques Tardi, and it feels like a labor of love made by filmmakers who are nostalgic for the stories they loved in their youth. You can feel their enthusiasm in everything from the movie’s sumptuous colors and costumes to its ambitious world-building.
Remember Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element? That remains one of the strangest of space-fantasy films… like a great grandchild of Star Wars that wanted to be Blade Runner, Die Hard, and Spaceballs all at once, frosted with music video madness. Its highs are so dazzlingly high, and its lows… well, if you don’t mind the way Chris Tucker takes over the movie in Act 3, then there aren’t any lows. There are only tangents. Really, really bizarre tangents.
Similarly, Adèle Blanc-Sec is like the great granddaughter of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but she really wants to be both Amelie and Tomb Raider. The highs are high (if not dazzlingly high). And the lows… well, there aren’t any. Just a lot of zany tangents. (Wait until you see how the pterodactyl deals with its parental impulses.)
Louise Bourgoin makes an engaging heroine, but the real scene stealers are Mathieu Amalric in the most spectacularly ugly makeover since Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, and Gilles Lellouche, whose Inspector Caponi is a brilliantly bumbling lawman right out a French cartoon.
And speaking of cartoons, on several occasions I was reminded of Spielberg’s Tintin, and that made me think about how much more I would have enjoyed a non-animated version of that film… something styled like this that allowed us the pleasure of old-fashioned movie magic: real costumes, real sets, real makeup, real (or more real) performances, real stunts, real light and shadow.
If there’s been anything lacking on the big screen in recent years, it’s that guilt-free fun that the whole family can enjoy together. (I know I mentioned Raiders and Amelie for comparison, but this film lacks all of those movies’ harder edges. It’s surprising modest and gore-free.) It may not amount to more than the sum of its genre-crazy parts, but it felt like seeing a glorious big-screen rendition of one of the stories I imagined as a kid.
And for that, I’m grateful.
(Wait, I know why it wasn’t a hit in America. The Fifth Element starred Bruce Willis, and the characters spoke English. This doesn’t star American celebrities, and Americans tend to dislike films that don’t have the decency to speak The American Language. Oh well… they’re missing out.)
I think this film deserves an audience.
And I say, “Bring on a sequel, Besson!”