Next week sees the UK and Ireland release of the CGI cartoon movie Asterix: The Secret Of The Magic Potion, based on Asterix, the most popular comic book in the world.
The comic, created by the late Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo has seen over thirty graphic novels published, and spin-offs in the shape of animated and live-action movies (starring Gerard Depardieu as Obelix), theme parks, and much more.
Asterix And The Magic Potion is an original story, rather than an adaptation of the comics, though certain scenes are ripped straight from the panels, such as The . It sees the village of Gauls, still holding out against the Roman hordes, beset by a crisis of mortality for their druid Getafix, and maker of the magic potion that keeps them super-strong.
So begins a quest to find a replacement, an heir for Getafix, across all of Gaul. While the Romans plot with another druid, Demonix, who intends to seize the recipe for the Magic Potion and rule the world as a result.
During which we end up in the most unlikely and anachronistic scenes
That with a mighty Mecha Robot/Godzilla fight, levitating fisherman and even at a few stages becoming an actual superhero movie – as The Four Fantastix demonstrate. The Roman advisor to Caesar is called TomCrus. You even get an Apocalypse Now moment with chickens that had us as an audience cheering.
But probably most notably of all, and what got the biggest reaction from the audience at my screening, is that one of the druid-wannabees is clearly Jesus Christ. The beard, the robe, it’s obviously him – and his audition for the job of the keeper of the magic potion is by multiplying loaves of bread for the masses. The French, eh? Gotta love them.
When it comes to entertaining takes on European Roman Invasions. Asterix And The Magic Potion is leagues ahead of the recent Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans, and is possibly more historically accurate. Even, you know, with the giant monster battles.
There’s just a strong feeling of fun throughout.
The politics of the village are always entertaining, but when the boys – and then all the men – leave. It exposes relationships that often don’t get aired. That gives Cacaphonix a chance to shine, and gives some real sense of danger, often denied Asterix stories. As the Romans seize their opportunity to bear down on the Gauls via attrition. And as Obelix has no more desires that to be friends with Asterix, hunt boar and Romans and when these are denied him, he becomes a tragic figure.
There is… I mean, look. There is the brief portrayal of the black pirate, which is pretty much the way he’s always been portrayed, in full colonial caricature mode, red lips and all. Again, the French, what are you going to do? If you’re taking the kids, why not have a brief chat about the history of colonialism while you’re at it?
Because the film is also full of hard questions, asking whether might makes right, looking at the corruption of power. If success is only success if it can be monetised or weaponised and also what cost friendship? While repeatedly being as silly as it possibly can.
Asterix hasn’t always had the best success on the big screen, and there have been many duds over the years
But The Secret Of The Magic Potion is the best Asterix movie to date. It works on different levels for different audiences. And that aspect, missing in the live action films. But integral to the success of the comic books is why this film is probably the most successful Asterix adaptation to date, despite not being based on a specific Asterix story. It gets it. And as a result, so do we.
Watching the film in English as a French national is an interesting experience. The way I saw it, Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion works on several levels – much like a Pixar movie. There’s the overall plot (the village’s druid Panoramix, or Getafix as he’s called in the English version. Realises that retirement is looming and resolves to find a successor with whom he’ll share his secret magic potion recipe). Which can be understood by any viewer regardless of their nationality.
Pixar, where Clichy worked for about three years (he animated scenes in Wall-E and Up). That has built an entire brand out of releasing movies that are for children on the surface but contain deeper references for adults. Without diminishing anyone’s enjoyment. The same applies here: if people miss out on a Kaamelott reference here and there. Clichy says, “it’s no big deal” – there’s still plenty for them to focus on.
Directed By: Alexandre Astier, Louis Clichy
Stars: Christian Clavier, Guillaume Briat, Alex Lutz
Written By: René Goscinny, Albert Uderzo
Runtime: 85 minutes
CRITIC REVIEWS FOR ASTERIX: THE SECRET OF THE MAGIC POTION (ASTÉRIX – LE SECRET DE LA POTION MAGIQUE)
The best that can be said of it is that there’s nothing wrong with the glossy computer animation, but the plot is yawningly convoluted and, like many foreign-language animations, the script travels abysmally.
The equivalent of the last comic on the shelf at the campsite supermarket: it may provide some distraction, but don’t expect much.
The films have always been more kid-oriented than the books and this one won’t frighten the school-age ones, although it might raise a few hairs on those younger. Adults might enjoy the knowing glimpses of the real world.
Unlike other Gallic attempts at this kind of big budget tongue-in-cheek cartoon, at least the directors know how to pull theirs off with slick efficiency and a fair amount of wit, even if the scenario itself feels far too simplistic.