Ah, Monsieur Luc Besson how I have missed your ways. After being in the fringes in recent years, exiling himself from the Hollywood spotlight, the French director has been quietly working away on features much closer to home such as the strange romantic fantasy, Angel-A and his low key animated trilogy, Arthur and the Invisibles. Never one short on ambition comes his first graphic novel adaptation in the form of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec - created by one of the grand masters of modern storytelling, Jacques Tardi.
You could lazily sum up Adele Blanc-Sec as essentially being Indiana Jones with an astonishingly beautiful woman as the heroine. Or simply Lara Croft with oodles more class and sex appeal. Either way, the film tells the tale of journalist come adventurer, Adele Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin) as she goes from Paris to the ancient Egyptian pyramids and back again in order to cure her sick sister. All the while through a series of curious events involving psychic energy and spells of reanimation, a pterodactyl is hatched and reeks havoc on the citizens of Paris.
One thing Besson does wonderfully with this film, is still retaining a sense of the classic comic book visuals from Tardi's original illustrations. It's so lush and decadent while still staying relatively true to the period in history, the film is set in. But of course the story is carried mainly on the truly excellent performance of Louise Bourgoin, who I can only hope will go on to bigger and better things off the back of this.
Her character was lively, witty, passionate, intelligently poised as well as being downright sexy. Though in truth, Luc Besson has always managed to craft strong, well-rounded female characters in his films, from Natalie Portman's breakout role in Leon to Mila Jovovich in his polarising sci-fi masterpiece, The Fifth Element.
The supporting performances were over the top, truly engaging and just simply loads of good honest fun. Mathieu Amalric's devilishly devious villain of the piece, Dieuleveut seemed as though he owed a lot to Ronald Lacey's Arnold Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark. However it was a real shame his character couldn't have been involved more in the actual story - leaving it for a sequel perhaps?
While the likes of Gilles Lellouche, Phillip Nahon and Jean-Paul Rouve played your typical bumbling French archetypes in a similar sort of vein to characters often found the Pink Panther movies. Which in my books is rarely a bad thing. The only minor criticisms I would say is the film's special effects aren't quite to the standard of Hollywood's higher end features. Furthermore, it regrettably fails to hit the globe-trotting grandeur of the film's opening act in Egypt - coming off more like Night at the Museum towards the end than Indiana Jones. Nevertheless I'd happily watch it again.
Louise Bourgoin's eccentric and voluptuously playful performance combines beautifully with, Luc Besson's visually extravagant presentation. There is a few flaws in the story but sometimes pure enjoyment trumps such criticisms. One of the most pleasurable outings to the cinema I've had this year.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is in selected cinemas across the UK from Friday April 15th 2011. European readers can get it on DVD/Blu-Ray now.