Guillaume Canet believes so much in his Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom, perhaps too much, to the point of making him take the proverbial leap of the shark and exceed everything, resulting in fake and not very funny. From February 2 in theaters with Notorious Pictures.
It has always been a feature of the audiovisual transpositions of Asterix & Obelix, the two Gallic heroes born from the pen of René Goscinny and the drawings of Albert Uderzo (one of the French heritages in short), to be highly over the top and play on a low comedy and “popular” just like the village they tell. What happens in Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdomthe fifth chapter of the live action saga from February 2 in Italian cinemas distributed by Notorious Pictures, is a sort of reboot in which perhaps they believed a little too much… so much so that it became a comic book cinepanettone.
Asteris & Obelix reboot
As we said, this is the fifth live action chapter of the saga, after 10 animated adaptations in the form of feature films and various video games. In short, a world from which one can draw infinitely but from which Guillaume Canet, an appreciated French actor and director, decides to put a stop and depart by presenting an unpublished story not taken from the original paper counterpart. A film of the first times: it is also the first film in which Obelix is not played by the good Gérard Depardieu, while Asterix had already changed his face three times in four films (Christian Clavier, Clovis Cornillac, Édouard Baer). It’s the same here Guillaume Canet to even pass in front of the camera to lend himself as a skinny rooster hero by chance of the historic couple.
Near him Gilles Lellouche in the role of the round travel companion and misadventures. In the fifth chapter, as in the previous ones, however, the presence of international stars who lend themselves to impersonating historical icons remains as a link: Marion Cotillard is the fickle and charming Cleopatra (previously played by Monica Bellucci), while Vincent Cassel he is Julius Caesar, angry, passionate and a little naive (already seen with the face of Alain Delon, Fabrice Luchini, Alain Chabat, Gottfried John). Recurring village characters also return, such as the chief Panoramix and Obelix’s ill-requited love, Falbalà (who after Laetitia Casta has the charm of Angèle).
Asterix & Obelix – The Middle Kingdom, the new chapter in cinemas and bookstores from February
From China with Gallic fury
In Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom we are in 50 BC and the two unlikely heroes by chance find themselves involved, together with the whole village, in escorting Princess Fu Yi, the only daughter of the emperor of China and her guard of the body Tat Han, victims of a coup by traitorous prince Deng Tsin Quin. This after the intervention of the Phoenician merchant Graindemaïs, who by posing as a rooster managed to make the princess flee towards Gaul. The young woman is now asking for asylum and help and Asterix and Obelix they won’t be able to say no to her and will have to venture once again on the road.
The journey will take them on a long world tour full of dangers and enemies to face, to return to China and claim the legitimacy of the throne of the princess, freeing the Chinese Empire. There is only one more “small” hitch in the plan: in the meantime China has been occupied by Julius Caesar, who continues to want to expand the Roman Empire to show his beloved Cleopatra what a virile and loveable man he is. Cesare also has an ace up his sleeve: the centurion at the head of the Antivirus army, played with a cameo from an unpublished Zlatan Ibrahimovic (now increasingly devoted to the cinema), complete with a football reference to his injury and consequent replacement on the pitch with a player much less acclaimed by the crowds.
Asterix & Obelix, the director under pressure for the film: “The future of French cinema will depend on it”
Comic book cinepanettone
It is not so much the staging – especially the make-up and costumes – that appears exaggeratedly artificial in this fifth chapter compared to the previous ones, albeit with all the necessary concessions given the source material, as much as the irony set up by Guillaume Canet: blatantly earthy, maddeningly basic. If in the first half the screenplay and the often physical sketches manage to snatch a few laughs, in the long run the atmosphere becomes heavy and difficult to digest, as if we were in a comic book movieoften unnecessarily vulgar and foul-mouthed.
Although comedy remains a subjective element, here it is also a question of badly linking ancient stylistic elements to references to current events and modernity – such as for example pigeons to send a message that vibrate as if an sms or a whatsapp were arriving on the smartphone , or even Biopix, the faithful biographer who follows Cesare in his deeds to document them in progress. The result is something anachronistic, a film that seems to have been made in the 90s but that blatantly wants to wink at the 2020s. All too out of place and out of time to entertain, to make people laugh, and not to make us want a “return to the origins” for the saga live action.
What can we say at the end of the review of Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom except that we are sorry that a saga that still had its raison d’être in live action, albeit with sometimes false and fluctuating results, has reached levels here of really low comedy, reminiscent of that of our local cinepanettoni. A waste of talents such as Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel and a direction given by Guillaume Canet who perhaps believed too much in this project, making the proverbial leap from the shark. Such a pity.
Because we like it
- A film that wants to try to put a point and restart a saga.
- A director like Guillaume Canet who believes in it with all his heart…
- …but seems to have strayed too far from the original print to produce something overly basic and needlessly silly.
- An often wasted stellar cast.
- The comedy really too cinepanettone.
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