"A dinosaur you say?"... The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)
Based upon Jacques Tardi's Franco-Belgian 70's comic strip, Luc Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec is an eye-popping mélange of anachronistic pop-culture riffs, pyrotechnic action sequences, wickedly dry humour, elegant attire and towering architecture, taking the viewer on an energetic romp through 20th Century Paris. Its rip-roaring pace beats out even Besson's (shockingly underrated) sci-fi spectacular The Fifth Element (1997), but retains that film's sense of gleeful anarchy, use of cross-cutting story arcs and reflexive mythologies. The jazzy Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin, ex-Canal+ weathergirl) is also one of Besson's classic heroines, confidently ranking alongside Leon's (1994) Mathilda (Natalie Portman) and Joan Of Arc's (1999), well, Joan Of Arc (Milla Jovovich). In reductionist terms she's like Indiana Jones spliced with Amélie, a rousing adventurer with a twinkle in her eye, capable of love but prone to fanciful capers in Peru and Egypt.
It's Paris, 1911, and Blanc-Sec has recently procured the mummified remains of an ancient doctor, whom she plans to be revived by Prof. Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian) in order to save her dying sister, who's become little more than a vegetable after a freak tennis accident. Meanwhile a pterodactyl soars high above Paris, tracked by Inspector Caponi (Gilles Lellouche) and big game hunter Justin de Saint-Hubert (Jean-Paul Rove). Throw in some mystery, romance and old-fashioned tomb raiding (an unrecognizable Mathieu Amalric plays Blanc-Sec's nemesis Dieuleveult) and you have Besson's finest film in years. The director is clearly relishing the chance to play with his actors here, dressing them up in extravagant costume, silly facial hair and striking eyeliner. The game cast are all clearly having a blast too. The witty screenplay takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the action, and certainly anyone able to suspend their disbelief will have a whale of a time with the various hijinks of Tardi's world.
There are some problems. The CGI never convinces, the tone is wildly uneven and the film is overall little more than a flimsy fancy, but Besson's latest has an undeniable charm that swept me up and never let me down. I'm sure he's hoping for a franchise, and I know I'll be first in line for Adèle Blanc-Sec Part Deux.
The Blu-Ray transfer is terrific, really accentuating Besson's fizzy aesthetic, concocted with regular DP Thierry Arbogast. The extras are pretty solid too, comprising a 29-minute 'Making Of' doc (genuinely revealing), extended interviews with Besson and the primary cast (Bourgoin, Amalric, Rove), an In Studio feature for the recording of the soundtrack, and the original theatrical trailer. Top notch.