TL;DR – While it captures the vibe of the original comics, some choices kept ripping me out of the film.
Post-Credit Scene – There are many mid-credit scenes
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix service that viewed this film
Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom Review –
Growing up, one of my joys was going to the library and finding a new Asterix comic I had never read before. Then I got old enough to understand that all the names were puns, and a new world opened up. I know they have done a couple of live-action movies before, but now was a chance to see if they could capture that joy from the original comic.
So to set the scene, it is 50 BC, and all of Gaul has been concurred by the Roman Empire … well, not all of Gaul because on the coast, one village holds out. Four Roman camps at Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum, and Compendium surround the village but still cannot concur. Out in the forest hunting for boar are the titular Asterix (Guillaume Canet) and Obelix (Gilles Lellouche), who show why the village can not be concurred thanks to the magic potion brewed by the druid Getafix (Pierre Richard). But one day, a surprise chariot arrives in the village carrying Princess Fu Yi (Julie Chen) from China escaping a forced marriage with Deng Tsin Qin (Bun Hay Mean), and our pair have to go off on a new adventure.
Right from the start, I think they completely captured the absurdist vibe from the comics that combines its Roman Empire setting with modern jokes and caricatures. There was joy when we walked through the village; you could make out all the comic characters. I do think Guillaume Canet and Gilles Lellouche capture the energy of Asterix and Obelix with their slightly competitive brothers who are not brothers. Additionally, the competitive love-hate between Julius Caesar (Vincent Cassel) and Cleopatra (Marion Cotillard) was hilarious. Vincent Cassel is chewing all the scenery while flaunting a very strategically placed toga.
Given the wealth of material they could have drawn on to adapt, it was an interesting choice to go with an original story. But you do feel that this story has the same vibe, even if they have never been to China. You could not help but laugh when you saw the pirates and knew immediately what was about to happen. Or Cacofonix (Philippe Katerine) trying to sing, and it ends badly. While it is a bit inconsistent, I liked how they manifested the potion powers in live-action, and it made a good combination with their attempts at adding in some more Wushu-style action set pieces.
However, some aspects of the film fell flat for me. The core of the conflict between Asterix and Obelix is that Asterix was gone vegetarian, which never felt genuine to me. Some of the uses of modern music worked. Everything around Caius Antivirus (Zlatan Ibrahimović) was a delight. However, others, like Kung Fu Fighting, felt a bit tacky in their use. Then there was the depiction of China. The books always draw a vast brush with their representations, leaning more into stereotypes. However, it is wild that they were looking for a local Chinese distributor, given how China is presented in this film. Also, there is this really awkwardly racist joke around slanted eyes that comes out of nowhere, and you have to wonder how the hell that made it to the final product. How many people looked at that and didn’t cut it? I mean, I checked, and it is even in the dubs they did. It is such a wildly inappropriate moment that it honestly taints the rest of the film.
In the end, do we recommend Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom? Well, that is a difficult question to answer. I do think that they captured the essence of the original comics. However, it was bogged down with choices that kept ripping me out of the film. If you liked Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom, we would recommend to you A Knight’s Tale.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom
Directed by – Guillaume Canet
Screenplay by – Philippe Mechelen & Julien Hervé
Based on – Asterix by René Goscinny & Albert Uderzo
Music by – Matthieu Chedid
Cinematography by – André Chemetoff
Edited by – Simon Jacquet
Production/Distribution Companies –Les Editions Albert Réné, Les Enfants Terribles, Pathé Films, Les Productions des Trésor & Netflix
Starring – Guillaume Canet, Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Jason Chicandier, Jonathan Cohen, Ramzy Bedia, Leanna Chea, Julie Chen, Linh-Dan Pham, José Garcia, Bun Hay Mean, Manu Payet, Tran Vu Tran, Pierre Richard, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Philippe Katerine, Jérôme Commandeur, Angèle, Matthieu ‘-M-‘ Chedid, Florent Manaudou, Audrey Lamy, Franck Gastambide, Vincent Desagnat, Orelsan, Laura Felpin, Issa Doumbia, Thomas Vandenberghe, Marc Fraize, Bigflo, Oli, Carlito, McFly, Tatiana Gousseff, Yann Papin, André Kalmes, Philippe Canet, Samuel Hibon, Nicolas Kopniaieff, Marcel Canet, Gabin Jouillerot, Youssef Sahraoui, Jim Adhi Limas, Marc Hoang, Bô Gaultier de Kermoal, Tien Shue & Gérard Darmon
Rating – Australia: M
Not only is there a slanted eye joke, there is a ching-chong joke later in.
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big yikes all around