They truly don’t make adventure films like they used to.
Long gone are the days of Indiana Jones (Crystal Skull, while slightly misunderstood still feels beyond dated) and other pure adventure films, with the closest relatives to this seemingly dead genre being children fare like Journey To The Center Of The Earth. As the action in the genre action-adventure now firmly in control, when one runs into a film that seems still very much in awe by the idea of having a genuine adventure on screen, it becomes something truly exciting.
And while it is far from a “great” film, Luc Besson’s finally-released-in-the-states picture The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is truly a charming and in many ways thrilling motion picture that doesn’t lie about just how entertaining the adventures that are had by its titular lead truly are.
Based on the legendary Jacques Tardi comic books of the same name, the film follows the story of the titular Adele Blanc-Sec, and her attempt to revive her sister at just about any cost. Set during the early part of the 20th Century, the film follows Adele as she does try to find a cure for her sister, but before that she needs to resurrect an ancient pharaoh’s doctor, hunt down a recently revived pterodactyl and a cavalcade of other absurd but thrilling challenges all with the hopes of getting back her sister, her best friend. A real throwback of sorts, Adele Blanc-Sec is a romp of a film that doesn’t ultimately add up to anything visceral or thought provoking, but is a truly entertaining bit of comedy that will enrapture children and adults alike.
Besson is far and away this film’s biggest selling point. Also the film’s writer, he has a way with blending comedy and action that truly turns this picture into a type of adventure flick they just don’t make anymore. While the premise itself is so inherently silly, the world built here is so entertaining and skillfully set up that it feels just about as heightened as anything one could expect to come out of it. Mustaches are extra curled, make up caked on and plot points cartoonishly turned up to eleven, with Besson crafting a world that is fully believable in its building yet entirely unbelievable in the sense of true logic.
Some of the film’s effects work does do it a bit of a disservice. While the practical effects are superb, the CGI here often feels cheap and haphazard, which thankfully isn’t used all that much. The picture becomes SyFy-level laughable when human characters interact with the CGI, save for the final act which finds a handful of mummies team with Adele to, well, you’ll find out after seeing it. The last 20 minutes or so saves the picture from being forgettable, in that it’s so rewarding it turns the picture into something worth sticking around for. Clocking in at 107 minutes, the film is a tad overlong and the pacing is extremely odd (there is a lot of world building for very little payoff, with one plotline being entirely forgotten about until the film’s odd final couple of shots), but thankfully there are a handful of truly exciting and hilarious set pieces, adding a great deal of enjoyment to this picture.
Performances here are uniformly good. Louise Bourgoin steals the show as the titular lead, seemingly perfectly cast as the beautiful, but decidedly antagonizing, Adele Blanc-Sec. There is a believability to her stubbornness that ultimately adds a lot of depth to this otherwise hyper-over-the-top adventure-comedy. Mathieu Amalric turns in a fine performance, as do the likes of Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve and even actors like Nicolas Giraud and Phillippe Nahon. It’s a film that may not be as memorable for its performances as it is for its filmmaking, but the cast more than holds its own here.
Originally made all the way back in 2010, the film is one that has been a long time coming. Thankfully however, we have it now on DVD and Blu-ray from Shout Factory. The transfer here is solid, but the Blu-ray doesn’t do much to help the odd effects work, turning a few moments into unintentionally laughable sequences (particularly a pterodactyl riding sequence that is the film’s weakest point). There is a music featurette that does a lot to add to the context of the film, as do some deleted scenes and interviews with the cast and crew. However, there is a making of documentary that will likely be the most watched feature here, a supplement that really gives an interesting look into a film that will hopefully be caught by cinephiles around the US. It’s a film that more than deserves the support and respect. It’s the perfect type of counterprogramming to this year’s summer of self-importance.