Movie Review: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

In Luc Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010), our heroine, played by Louise Bourgoin, spends a good portion of her time sighing in exasperation. You see, Adèle absolutely does not have time for everyone’s stupidity (and, clearly, there are many stupid people around her). She has very important things to take care of and doesn’t need anything standing in her way.

Based on Jacques Tardi’s comic series of the same name, this movie is absolutely ridiculous and charming. I did not expect to have this much fun.

Adèle is a 25-year-old journalist/novelist from early 20th century France who travels the world in pursuit of stories. Allegedly. She’s more in pursuit of her own ends — currently, a mummy of an ancient Egyptian doctor who should provide the key to saving her catatonic sister. Back in Paris, there’s some trouble with a professor who can revive the dead and a pterodactyl. I really hope, at this point, you are thinking “This sounds like the best movie ever.” It’s not quite that, no, but it’s delightful all the same.

When you get down to it, the plot doesn’t make that much sense. It pulls from both “Adèle and the Beast” (or “Pterror Over Paris” as it’s called in the Fantagraphics edition) and “Mummies on Parade” although with liberties. While Adèle’s motivation to save her sister is definitely heartfelt, it’s more of just a plot device to put her in crazy situations.

Most of the fun is watching Bourgoin. This movie is firmly on her shoulders and she’s clearly enjoying herself. While she’s absolutely gorgeous, she also doesn’t seem to mind looking silly on occasion (Adèle dons various costumes in several failed attempts to break someone out of jail). She easily transitions from high comedy to quieter moments. She’s charismatic and playful in the role.

The special effects look fairly cheesy — despite being computer generated, they have a stop-motion look, but it works for the sort of movie this is. Other than some brief, non-titillating nudity when Adèle takes a bath and an off-screen decapitation, this could almost be a kid’s movie (and honestly, no worse — and in some ways, more tame — than Raiders of the Lost Arc, for example). I doubt the costumes or sets are overly authentic, but they’re beautiful and do go far in creating the world this story takes place.

I also really appreciated there was no tacked-on romance. While Andrej (Nicolas Giraud) has a sweet, harmless obsession with her and does prove to be helpful, Adèle isn’t interested, mostly because she has better things to do at the time. That was refreshing.

This is supposed to the be the first of a trilogy, but we’ll see. The ending is either cruel or open-ended on that account, but I’m not worried about Adèle’s ability to get out of whatever situation she finds herself in. She’s a smart, resourceful and clever woman. I have the comics but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her on screen.

(This seems to be out everywhere except for the U.S. … but if you’re resourceful, you can find it pretty easily and cheaply. And legally.)

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec”

  1. I liked the movie way more than I like the comic. For whatever reason the story simply works better live action. I like Adele better here more than the comic.

  2. I actually agree for the most part. Adèle in the comic is still fun and I really love the character, but she’s definitely colder and more intellectual. Louise Bourgoin’s Adèle is more sensual and more fun. (I think that’s more the actress than it is Luc Besson, personally.)

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