Comic Book Movies 101: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec

Plot: The film charts Adele’s adventures in trying to bring her sister out of a coma. To do this she must ask a psychic scientist to revive an ancient Mummy that possesses the medical skills needed. The scientist is due to be executed however, for bringing a raging pterodactyl to life, but Adele uses said pterodactyl to rescue the scientist. He performs the ritual, which brings the Mummy to life, but it kills him. The Mummy isn’t able to save the sister, but has some Mummy friends that can and do.

Firstly, I don’t have a problem with ludicrous storylines; some of the best films are ridiculous in nature. But, advertised as a cross between Amelie and Indiana Jones, this falls well below the standard of humour, adventure or charm of either of these films.

My main issue with the film was that the sister’s bizarre appearance accident should have been explained right at the beginning of the film. Showing her with a pin stuck through the back of her head is a grotesque image. By the time Adele had explained – at the end of the film – it was too late. I spent most of the film thinking that Adele was psychotically murderous and was keeping her sister in bed as some weird incestuous sex game gone horribly wrong.

There are some charming formulaic elements, the abrupt manner of the Adele, the waddling, bloated walk of the Inspector, Adele’s continuously foiled attempts at breaking into the prison.  But in the same way, some things are too cliché and just boring; the joke about the inspector never getting to eat isn’t funny. And there are missed opportunities for humour – he should eat at the final scene. Otherwise he’s continually a victim, which is just dull.

That’s an issue with all of the characters, there isn’t enough about them for you to root for any of them. Most of them are grating; the young man in love with Adele is a sap, the scientist should have been an endearing old man, the inspector should have finally achieved something. Even Adele, isn’t given enough to explain who she is. I didn’t get any idea of why she went on these adventures, has she always been like this or only since the incident with her sister?

The whole thing buzzes about, without giving us any opportunity to enjoy or understand some key scenes. In one scene with the old psychic scientist, he sits in his flat while the contents of his flat whizz around him in the air. This isn’t explained, it’s not really clear that he’s controlling it or if some other supernatural source is responsible. Equally when the pterodactyl comes to life, it isn’t clear how he’s managed this, or even that he’s controlling the link. That’s a theme with every event in this film – it happens and then later there is a verbal explanation, which I find lazy.

There is also some very lazy editing. It’s unclear in some parts of the film what has happened. The scene where she rescues the president from a pterodactyl, but then gets arrested for attacking the president. From the edit though, everyone would have seen the pterodactyl and her attempts to protect the president, so I was lost in the next scene. Tighter editing on the scenes, and in fact the story, is necessary.

Finally, the Pterodactyl. What do I have against the pterodactyl? One, it is poorly animated and if you can’t afford to spend the money on doing it right, don’t put it in a film. We live in an age where CG is so advanced and prevalent in films, that if you’re not up there with the Hippogriffs and Krackens, you really shouldn’t bother. Two, what is its function? To prove that the scientist can actually resurrect people? Better that he proved it with his life at the end of the film and then the Mummy should have come to life immediately. That way there would be an element of suspense – will he or won’t he bring the Mummy to life? I would have then had the detective investigate the missing Mummy instead, or that weird creepy villain we met briefly at the beginning, not the scientist.   

The villain, or lack of one, is also central to the films disappointing plot line. Essentially he plays no role, is never explained and his appearance is so brief that when he reappeared for a couple of seconds at the end, I almost forgot who he was. In fact, the main villain becomes the inspector who is chasing after the pterodactyl, which doesn’t work as he’s just a bumbling civil servant. An adventure film needs a villain to give the piece its edge, to provide an incentive for success and to give us a reason to root for the heroine.

If I had to pick an over-riding reason for the films failure it would be that I just couldn’t engage with it on any level. I wasn’t scared or buoyed by it, I wasn’t moved by any of the characters and really just wanted the whole thing to end. A film that requires belated exposition for every story point has failed at that point.

As a fan of Amelie and Indiana Jones, I was hugely excited to watch the film and very disappointed with the result. I’m also annoyed with the ending, which clumsily led to the possibility of a sequel. Or maybe I’m just annoyed that there is one. I would end this by saying one positive thing about this, which is that the shots of Paris are beautiful and the period reproduction is nicely done. I would have liked to see more of that and less of the ptero…ok, I think I made my point on that score. So basically, avoid where possible.

Maliha Koro

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