flops and peaks of their adventures in the cinema

On the occasion of his releaseAsterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdoma look back at the four previous films that brought the adventures of two Gauls to the big screen in live action.

True titles of French popular culture, the characters Asterix and Obelix, created by Goscinny (for the script) and Uderzo (pictured) continue, more than 60 years after their birth in 1959, to release the passions. Witnesses: the waves of comments created by each their new appearances, on the album or on the big screen.

trailer e middle empire, by Guillaume Canet.

Despite colossal budgets and casting to dazzle the Croisette, all film adaptations of Gallic heroes seem bound to attract more grimaces than laughs. Everything? No. Because one of them, directed by an unsurpassed director, knew how to find the right tone… Middle Empireby Guillaume Canet, this Wednesday 1er In short, come back with three flops and a ball.

Getting out of the boxes: prehistoric sites

But first, a little history. Asterix and Obelix are not ten years old when it comes to giving them animated life. Pierre Tchernia lives in 1967, performing for the small screen Two Romans in Gaula black-and-white version combining animation and live action in which actor Roger Carel, who had already performed a radio version the year before, voices the mustachioed little hero – a role he would hold until the film . animation. Asterix: domain of the gods (2014, by Alexandre Astier and Louis Clichy).

Two Romans in Gaul (1967), by Pierre Tchernia.

Animated films, there will be a dozen. But, inevitably, between the worldwide success of the albums (380 million sold in 2020) and the universal popularity of the Goscinny-Uderzo universe, the cinema does not have much time to see the two Gauls.

In the 1960s, Claude Lelouch thus envisioned an adaptation with lay actors selected for their physical resemblance to the characters of the Gallic countryside. The project stalled during production. Louis de Funes sees himself playing a mustache-less Asterix, joined by Lino Ventura as Obelix. But “Tired, tired, tired”in the words of a Roman leader in Golden supply (1960), nothing like that will happen.

“Adjust!”they said…

trailer e Asterix vs. Caesar, by Claude Zidi.

It will have to wait until 1999 for Claude Zidi to realize it Asterix and Obelix against Caesar. Christian Klavier plays the role of the little mustache – very instructive, in this case; Gérard Depardieu plays his assistant there. Also on the bill, a host of actresses and comedians beloved of popular cinema: Michel Galabru, Claude Piéplu, Arielle Dombasle and even Roberto Benigni in Tulius Detritus (Disagreement). And a very literal adaptation that fails to leave the boxes of the Goscinny-Uderzo universe, and only makes a pale copy.

Unnecessary special effects, sets free… However, Zidi’s film was a huge success with 9 million tickets sold, the biggest French success of 1999 – especially against Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, by George Lucas. In total, the adaptation will have 24 million admissions worldwide.

Two cinematic glitches

In the Olympic games (Frédéric Forestier and Thomas Langmann, 2008) and For her majesty (Laurent Tirard, 2012) reject the components of Zidi’s film for a very bad result for the first and really not terrible for the second.

Clovis Cornillac and Gérard Depardieu in Asterix at the Olympics. ©2007 Pathé Renn Production / La Petite Reine / Tri Pictures / Constantin Films / Sorolla Films / November

Despite a budget of 78 million euros for the “Olympic” version of the Gauls (one of the biggest budgets in French cinema), Clovis Cornillac and Gérard Depardieu struggle to convince Forestier and Langmann in front of the camera. And neither the presence of Zinédine Zidane nor the incarnation of César by Alain Delon (not bad for all that) are able to counterbalance a weak script and gags – as if the universe of Goscinny and Uderzo had been emptied of its substance. like light and smart. An estimated 16.5 million viewers worldwide were able to gauge the mediocrity of this adaptation.

As for the opus For her majesty, shot in 3D (very trendy at the time), neither Édouard Baer as Asterix nor Fabrice Luchini (as Fabrice Luchini – sorry, as César) manage to make us smile more than a little. The costumes look straight out of a thrift store and Catherine Deneuve inside the Queen she would have deserved better than dresses that make you cringe, between pity and disgust. The public was less fooled: just 8 million admissions worldwide for Laurent Tirard’s film.

Alain Chabat’s ingredients for his magic potion

We have to see Mission Cleopatra to understand what doesn’t work in episodes In the Olympic games AND For her majesty. Done by Alain Chabat in 2002, at the instigation of producer Claude Berri, the adaptation seems like a “good translation”: instead of trying to stick to the comic at all costs, the former Les Nuls appropriates the Gallic universe, creating a mixture with a balance subtle between essential elements. , choice “in the spirit of”, and supposed creations.

So we see Asterix and Obelix getting a chorus from Claude François (Alexander, Alexandra), or even Depardieu/Obelix launching, after the Sphinx’s nose falls, into a nose tirade echoing his role in the cinematic adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac (1990, Jean-Paul Rappeneau).

Chabat knows the world ofAsterix, he seizes it without fear of leaving it aside, to bring his reading steeped in insolence and parody developed with Les Nuls – after all not so far from that of Goscinny. Another crucial point missing from the other three adaptations: Chabat manages to entertain young and old. visual humor, jokes Referred to… The viewer, whatever his age, finds his narrative there – which is perhaps a key element of the success of Goscinny-Uderzo’s albums.

Applauded by critics, Alain Chabat’s adaptation was seen by 14 million viewers. The good news is that it is the same Chabat supervises the animated series with the Gauls, to watch on Netflix soon.

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