What I liked most about the comic book version of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec by Jacques Tardi was the sheer number of imaginative concepts carried in its pages. I’m thrilled that the movie has the same approach.
This is an overstuffed jewel box of a movie, with new characters and discoveries and visions every scene. The visuals are amazing, beginning with a full theater and can-can girls (to establish this is Paris in 1912) and moving on to a baby pterodactyl hatching, spurred by the mental machinations of an elderly professor. There’s also a dense cop and an even denser big game hunter trying to stop the dinosaur. (Who is dressed down with the line, “You would dare to shoot at science?!?”)
Adèle (Louise Bourgoin) is introduced as a successful writer and adventurer, strong-willed and unafraid of exploration, outsmarting the men who underestimate her. She’s opening an Egyptian tomb in search of a particular mummy. She plans to reanimate it to get the knowledge she needs to cure her comatose sister. If Indiana Jones were female and French, this sequence would fit beautifully into his exploits. (The movie is based on the first story in the first book and the second story in the second English release.)
The characters and costumes are wonderfully exaggerated, heightening the sense of adventure and history. Some of the cast members look like living caricatures. There’s also plenty of dry humor, a playful attitude, a fast pace, and excellent special effects (except when someone tries to ride the pterodactyl; that gets a little dodgy, but the mummies fare much better). The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec has the cliffhangers and storytelling of a 1930s serial with the most modern production values. I’d expect no less from writer/director Luc Besson — what he did for science fiction with The Fifth Element, he here does for historical adventure.
The Blu-ray comes with a DVD version and an iTunes digital copy. The movie can be watched dubbed or subtitled. There are English or French audio tracks as well as English subtitles. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray have the same special features:
- A 26-minute making-of, subtitled, with Luc Besson, Jacques Tardi, Louise Bourgoin, and many of the other actors. It covers all the key parts of making the movie: casting, makeup, production design, locations, and more. Particularly interesting is seeing what some of the cast looked like when they weren’t under heavy latex and costume as their characters. One of the weirdos is quite attractive as himself!
- Four deleted (also subtitled) scenes of a younger Adèle and her sister.
- Two minutes on the music, with Bourgoin singing.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is available in the U.S. on Tuesday, August 13. Recommended, particularly for steampunk aficionados or fans of imaginative action comedies. I had a blast watching it! (The studio provided a review copy.)