As portrayed by the very lovely Louise Bourgoin, Adèle Blanc-Sec has a charming beauty that's captivating, with youthful features that at first make you think her wet behind the ears and innocent to the ways of the world. But after a few minutes in her company, she'll instantly correct you of such presumptions, as the grave robbers in Egypt quickly realized when trying to backstab her at an important discovery. Like the dry yet sweet and fruity white wine your drink with a smoked trout salad on a warm summer evening, Blanc-Sec is delightful and charismatic, but cross her, push her patience or treat her like a child, her mouth flings insults like arrows aimed directly at your manhood. Then, she's comically escorted from various buildings and offices with swift haste.
The reaction to her personality from uptight Victorian gentlemen is part of the appealing hilarity in 'The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec,' a Luc Besson production from 2010 that took this long to finally land on U.S. shores. Having never read any of the Jacques Tardi comic books on which Adèle Blanc-Sec originates, I was genuinely taken aback by the character and her spitfire demeanor; she doesn't take any sass from anybody, even when in the presence of a resurrected Ramses II and his mummy entourage. If Adèle is anything like Bourgoin portrays her, then I'll need to do some more reading over the summer because she's a hoot. Speaking of which, Bourgoin is wonderful in the role, making audiences instantly fall in love with her while also being wary of her.
Adèle is a popular fiction author with one particular fan, Andrej (Nicolas Giraud), who is at a loss for words in her presence but fittingly works as a scientist in the museum where the film's plot gets its start. Her official job is as an intrepid and nosey journalist, but her Indiana Jones-like penchant for adventure in the exciting world of archaeology has her traveling around the world and meddling with the mysteries of the ancients. When we're first introduced to her in Egypt, she's deciphering puzzling hieroglyphs like children's riddles and in search of Ramses II's mummified physician, wanting him to cure Adèle's sister from her comatose state. It's also here we first meet our heroine's archenemy Professor Dieuleveult (Mathieu Amalric), a grossly disfigured, scheming little man that's a cross between Belloq and Major Toht. However, don't expect much from him until the sequel.
Meanwhile, back home in Paris — and this is, as a small point of criticism, where the plot suddenly feels bloated — the one man who can help Adèle with the mummy, a Professor Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian) who nearly looks like a mummy himself, makes a telepathic connection with a pterodactyl. And for some unexplained reason, he is jailed for this and sentences to die by guillotine. Nonetheless, it's a great opportunity to show that Adèle is also a master of disguise, as shown in one comical montage sequence where she tries to spring the professor from his coop. Unfortunately, she's not very good at keeping appearances long enough to be successful. Fortunately though, the gigantic flying reptile comes in quite handy when least expected, even as a convenient plot device, providing a few minutes of suspense and a hurried pace.
Supposedly combining two books from Tardi's popular comic series, 'The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec' definitely feels like the reworking of two separate plots smashed together. Where one tale involving a flying reptile, the incessantly hungry Inspector Caponi (Gilles Lellouche) and big-game hunter Justin de Saint-Hubert (Jean-Paul Rouve) ends with a hollow bang, the second featuring sightseeing mummies immediately picks up the slack and finishes with a lighthearted twist blatantly hinting at a sequel. The whole thing makes for an overstuffed family flick, but Luc Besson, who also adapted the screenplay, keeps the "gaslamp" fantasy adventure humorously exciting and whimsically witty with plenty of imaginative visuals that are a feast for the eyes.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout! Factory brings 'The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec: Director's Cut' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a code for a Digital Copy. A DVD-9 copy sits on the panel opposite a Region A locked, BD50 disc housed in a blue, eco-elite case with a glossy slipcover. Although the director's cut of the film adds two minutes to the runtime and appears to be exclusive to Blu-ray, the difference between this set and the previous release is negligible at best, showing very minor alternate takes, extended scenes of dialogue and some brief nudity. At startup, the disc goes straight a menu screen with full-motion clips and music.
The director's cut of 'Adèle Blanc-Sec' arrives with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that's identical to the previous Blu-ray release, so I'll just repeat my comments from that review. The same goes for the audio.
The picture comes with extraordinary detailing in the Parisian architecture, exposing the tiniest notch and mark on the buildings lining the roads. Individual cobblestones making up the streets are plainly visible, the furniture inside the homes of various characters is discernible in every scene, and the stitching and fabric in the Victorian costumes are distinct. Every wrinkle and negligible blemish in the faces of actors is easy to make out, and complexions have a wonderful lifelike texture to them. CGI sequences, unfortunately, bring with them a bit of softness, sometimes to a noticeable degree, but it's not enough to ruin the movie's overall enjoyment.
The 2.35:1 image also comes with a stunning array of colors. Lush, dynamic primaries keep the film energized and vibrant while pulsating, bold secondary hues add warmth and dimension. With striking, well-balanced contrast washing over the screen, the video oozes with life and a spirited animation that terrifically complements Adèle's fantastic adventure. Daylight exteriors are, of course, the most spectacular, but for some reason, nighttime sequences are the transfer's weakest area, especially those scenes with CGI creatures. Blacks remain true and accurate, for the most part, with excellent shadow details, yet overall brightness levels plummet, loosing much of the picture's luster. Still, the high-def presentation is sensationally impressive.
Shout! Factory offers the Luc Besson production with four listening options, but only two of them are really worth considering, which not surprisingly are the two spoken in the original French language. The first pair is English dubs, and to be perfectly frank, they are terrible. Not only are the actors doing the ADR work completely lifeless and boring, the entire soundtrack also feels hollow with a weird, distracting echo effect. The last two are not only the preferred tracks but also come in either uncompressed PCM stereo or DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound. After going back and forth between the two for a while, I opted for the latter as it provided a better listening experience.
The front-heavy design delivered excellent, well-prioritized vocals in the center, and channel separation was well-balanced with fluid, flawless movement across the screen. Scenes in the Paris streets were full of life and the hustling pace of the city. Needless to say, the soundstage generated a highly engaging image with clean, detailed clarity in the mid-range. The design also comes with a surprisingly deep and powerful low-end, employed during some interestingly amusing moments. A few choice atmospherics spread into the rears to enhance the soundfield and create some mild ambience, but the effect is hardly immersive or memorable. The real strength of this lossless mix is in the wonderfully engaging soundstage, bringing the film's imaginative action to life.
Also, the presentation is CIH (Constant Image Height) friendly, as subtitles appear within the image proper.
A fun, light-hearted, and delightful fantasy adventure based on the Jacques Tardi comic book series of the same name, 'The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec' is one of Luc Besson's finer efforts in recent memory. Starring the lovely Louise Bourgoin as the adventurous and spunky Adèle, the film charms with fanciful visuals, imaginative characters and a whimsical energy. The Blu-ray arrives with a stunning picture quality and an excellent audio presentation, but sadly, the overall package is fairly light on bonus features. All in all, the movie is a delight and should satisfy fans of "gaslamp" fantasies and Besson alike.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.