The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec review: gloriously goofy

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The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec green light Louise Bourgoin

This is what comic-book movies look like when they’re not blown up into $200 million monstrosities: friendly and eldritch and kinda cosy even in the middle of outrageous escapades.
I’m “biast” (pro): oo, a female adventurer!

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s a shame this gloriously goofy French flick, from 2011, didn’t get a big-screen release in North America, because it is one of those juicy, chewy, pulpy adventures that is best appreciated flickering in the dark. Then again: the dreaded subtitles. And the hero is a chick, which — if we’re to believe Hollywood — no one wants to see. See it anyway, even if you must resort to the small screen now that it has, at least, gotten a DVD/blu-ray release in the U.S. You won’t be sorry.

Based on the comic books by Jacques Tardi [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] and adapted and directed by Luc Besson (Taken), this is what comic-book movies look like when they’re not blown up into $200 million monstrosities: friendly and eldritch and kinda cosy even in the middle of outrageous escapades. The year is 1911, and lady journalist and adventurer Adèle Blanc-Sec (the gorgeous Louise Bourgoin) is somewhere in an Arabian desert, breaking into a dusty tomb. There’s a treasure map, bien sûr, and unsavory companions who cannot be trusted because they’re after gold while all she seeks is knowledge. (It’s very Raiders of the Lost Ark, in the best way.) There’s something she needs — ancient wisdom; magic even — to help her beloved sister, who is in a bad way in a way that is hilarious in its ridiculous wrongness. Perhaps Patmosis, physician to pharaoh Ramses II, might have discovered the something she needs. She drags his mummy back to Paris… where her friend Professor Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian) has already tested his “bringing the dead back to life” weird-science on a museum-exhibit pterodactyl egg. Which has hatched and is now terrorizing the city.

You know, the usual sort of Tuesday for a lady journalist and adventurer.

Bourgoin is an absolute delight as a woman surrounded by incompetents — the aforementioned unsavory companions, bumbling cops, and other guys who think their guyness automatically bestows awesomeness — and besotted would-be suitors who are not worthy of her, though they might be worthy of tagging along to assist her as things get even weirder. And Besson gets the tone exactly right throughout. This genre-bending pulp stew would collapse into a steaming pile of its own absurdity with just a single wrong note. It never does, and remains wonderfully silly fun.

Watch The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec online using LOVEFiLM‘s streaming service.

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Wed, Aug 14, 2013 10:28pm

I knew that you were going to like this movie as soon as the credits rolled in the cinema when I saw it in 2011.

I personally liked the prison break sequence best, it’s so hilariously silly.

I did read some of the comics this is based on when I was a kid, but the drawing style put me off a bit from them. It had this really weird drawing style to it, which made all the characters look bizarre. Not something you look for in a comic book when your a kid!

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 10:34pm

It was one of my favourite films of that year, just marvellous, and reminded me a lot of the Eighth Doctor era novels, but then so many things do…

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  feelinglistless
Thu, Aug 15, 2013 2:53am

It *does* have a sort of Doctor Who feel to it, doesn’t it?

Joanne Howe
Joanne Howe
Wed, Aug 14, 2013 10:41pm

She rides a Pterodactyl over Paris using her feather boa for reins. I can’t think of a better definition of ‘heroine’. (And I loved Tutmosis too.)

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 10:53pm

I knew you’d like this film. I have it on DVD and I seem to remember recommending it to you once or twice (though you won’t remember).

I love the fact that the Mummies aren’t there for horror and just totter off into the city muttering about civilisation.

Great film

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Captain_Swing666
Thu, Aug 15, 2013 2:53am

I actually first saw this back in 2011, at a press screening before its UK release. So I’d probably already seen it when you recommended it. :->

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 1:44pm

It does show its bande dessinée roots, which aren’t quite the same thing as the pulp to which it is inevitably compared. But I think that if one can take it on its own terms, generally a good idea anyway if one’s setting out to enjoy a film and those terms aren’t entirely revolting, it’s well worth it. I haven’t read these particular BDs; some of this film seemed a bit self-consciously French (the wine-connoisseur gendarmes), but it’s no sillier than Astérix.

reply to  RogerBW
Thu, Aug 15, 2013 8:59pm

You can find some information about the comic series as well as some links to other info sites at

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 9:58pm

The trailer looked like fun (especially with the Indiana Jones feel to some of the visuals), and this review seals the deal. I’ll have to add this movie to my viewing list. It’s a shame that it did not get a US theatrical release. An English dubbed version might even have worked.

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 2:06am

I totally want to see this. Hopefully, it doesn’t take forever for it to become available on Blockbuster Online.

Tyler Foster
Tyler Foster
Sun, Aug 25, 2013 8:05pm

Be aware that the version recently released in North America is…some cut, and another Blu-Ray and DVD are on the way being advertised as a Director’s Cut. No idea what the difference is…maybe this first cut is the French theatrical cut?