There is something extraordinarily appealing about retro scifi and fantasy tales set in an historical context, introducing monsters and steampunk technology into what is an otherwise familiar past. The Indiana Jones films drew on that appeal — as did The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was superb as a graphic novel and then became a dismal movie that completely failed to capitalise on its own inherent conceptual qualities. Upcoming historical “re-creations” such as War of the Worlds: Goliath and more significantly the Asylum’s take on Sherlock Holmes, which is set to include a slew of “enormous monsters” attacking good ol’ nineteenth century London, are all part of an appealing trend — as would be WW2-based War Eagles if only Willis O’Brien’s long-unrealised but constantly re-mooted project would actually manage to become a reality. Perhaps the highly anticipated Tintin films to be directed by Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg are part of this sub-genre.
Now it looks as though the French are up for some of the same sort of action. Luc Besson of The Fifth Element, The Professional and La Femme Nikita fame is currently in post-production of the first film in a planned trilogy, based on the adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, a female journalist in the 1920s (and beyond). The lovely and vivacious Adèle is the creation of comic artist Jacques Tardi and in the course of her extraordinary adventures she isn’t averse to dealing with reanimated mummies, rampant dinosaurs, demons from hell and other super-normal conspiracies.
Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec [aka The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Dry-White] (France-2010; dir. Luc Besson)
Courtesy of Twitch, here is the promotional description of the project that appeared on the American Film Market listing:
The year is 1912. Adèle Blanc-Sec, an intrepid young reporter, will go to any lengths to achieve her aims, including sailing to Egypt to tackle mummies of all shapes and sizes.
Meanwhile, in Paris, it’s panic stations! A 136 million-year old pterodactyl egg on a shelf in the natural history museum has mysteriously hatched, and the bird subjects the city to a reign of terror from the skies. But nothing fazes Adèle Blanc-Sec, whose adventures reveal many more extraordinary surprises…
Set in the carefree world before World War I, Adèle Blanc-Sec’s adventures see the brave young woman fearlessly battling crooks, corrupt politicians, demon worshippers and mad scientists. Legendary cartoonist Jacques Tardi’s original stories perfectly recreate the intrigue, romance and excitement of one of the most tumultuous periods in history.
Jacques Tardi’s comic series began 1976 with Adèle et la bête (Adèle and the Beast), the latest being 2007’s Le labyrinthe infernal. There have been nine Adèle adventures so far:
- Adèle et la bête (Adèle and the Beast) (1976)
- Le démon de la tour Eiffel (The Demon of the Eiffel Tower) (1976)
- Le savant fou (The Mad Scientist) (1977)\Momies en folie (Mummies on Parade) (1978)
- Le secret de la salamandre (The Secret of the Salamander) (1981)
- Le noyé à deux têtes (The Drowned Man with Two Heads) (1985)
- Tous des monstres! (Monsters All!) (1994)
- Le mystère des profondeurs (The Mystery of the Abyss) (1998)
- Le labyrinthe infernal (2007)
The Franco-Belgian humour and sensibilities that run through Adèle Blanc-Sec’s work seem reminiscent of Hergé’s Tintin adventures, though with a more “adult” perspective that focuses on “themes of the occult, corruption, official incompetence, and the dangers of patriotism” (Wikipedia entry). It’s more than likely that actress Louise Borguin will bring a feisty sexiness to the role that can only augur well for Besson’s trilogy of films — which must inevitably involve tentacles!
At any rate, Besson’s The Fifth Element is one of the most visually rich and inventive films in cinematic history — and as displayed by The Professional and La Femme Nikita, he knows how to do action with a strong human basis to it. I find myself feeling really excited by the prospects for this one.