Tuesday 16 January 2018

Movies: The extraordinary adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec * *

(12A, Limited Release)

Paul Whittington

If The Mummy had been filmed in French and with a little more gallic abandon, it might have looked something like this. Luc Besson adapted The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec from a series of action comics by French graphic novelist Jacques Tardi.

Besson also directs and produces a film that attempts to match effects-driven Hollywood adventures on a comparatively modest budget of €30m. Louise Bourgoin is well cast as Adele Blanc-Sec, a glamorous bestselling novelist in pre-war Paris who moonlights as a dashing adventurer.

As the film opens, a celebrated professor called Esperandieu uses his telepathic powers to hatch a 136-million-year-old pterodactyl egg in a Paris museum. A giant flying lizard emerges and roosts in the eaves of the Eiffel Tower.

Ms Blanc-Sec, meanwhile, is in Egypt on a quest to find the tomb of a famous Egyptian doctor who was buried with his Pharaoh. Adele's sister has been in a coma since a terrible accident drove a hairpin through her forehead, and Blanc-Sec believes that if Monsieur Esperandieu can revive the ancient physician, her sibling can be saved.

I hope you followed all that, because when our heroine returns to Paris things get even more complicated, with undead mummies strolling down the Champs-Elysees while the French president (regrettably not the present incumbent) is attacked by a dinosaur.

In fairness to all concerned, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec unfolds at a hectic pace, with energy, conviction and a modest amount of wit. Bourgoin cuts a dash as the heroine, and Mathieu Amalric makes an unrecognisable cameo as the villainous Dieuleveut.

But the film loses its way in a chaotic final chapter, and unfortunately its creaky special effects often let it down. This being a French film, Bourgoin flashes her stately chest in a gratuitous bath scene, proving that nature can always trump the most elaborate Cgi fireworks.

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