In 1912, and around 135 million years after being laid, a pterodactyl egg in a Parisian museum hatches and causes panic. Sightings of the flying monster are reported by newspapers and a chain of investigators delegate the case until a big game hunter is brought in to find the prehistoric creature. However, re-animating the pterodactyl was only a practice run for Professor Espérandieu, his ultimate aim is to assist the beautiful Adèle Blanc-Sec...
When Adèle first appears in the film she is on an expedition to Cairo. She hopes to retrieve the mummified body of a Pharaoh's doctor who (once brought back to life) will be able to heal her comatose sister. The plot may sound ridiculous but the overall look of the film manages to pull it off without looking like a mess. The turn-of-the-century setting is blended with a modern style and visuals which almost make this feel like a fairy-tale world. Some of the characters have prosthetics which give them an otherworldly appearance which places them in an alternate reality and allow the viewer to accept the implausible concept. Inspector Conrad, for example, looks like Monty Python's Mister Creosote and Mademoiselle Blanc-Sec has the appearance of Mary Poppins crossed with Indiana Jones.
CGI is used extensively in the film and for the most part it looks very good, but there are some sequences involving CGI human's which aren't as convincing as the pterodactyl.
This is based on a series of French language comics and the madcap adventure has translated well to film, it is quite whimsical and often involves farcical comedy, the comedy element of the film means that you never really feel that anyone is ever in any peril (which perhaps detracts from some of the drama) and this is ultimately a light-hearted adventure. Adèle is feisty and beautiful, her plight provides an emotional insight which is good as there is little character development to her otherwise.
If you want madcap French comedy then Micmacs
does it better (one of my favourite films of the last few years) and when it comes to breathtaking visuals, Luc Besson did it best with the black and white Angel-A
which is jaw-droppingly beautiful. This however is a fun swashbuckling film with larger than life characters and a good dose of the occult. I don't think it will be as highly regarded as others in Besson's back catalogue but it's certainly enjoyable and the humour comes through well. This is one of his more mainstream films and should appeal to a wider audience, especially with so much of it looking familiar (there are scenes reminiscent of Indiana Jones and The Mummy), it's a shame that many will only entertain foreign language films if they look like Hollywood fayre, this certainly has that look in places but the Gallic humour and fantasy-esque visuals ensure that this is still stylishly individual.
In a nutshell: A quirky, pre-war romp which captures the energy and excitement of a Jules Verne adventure. It's great to see a strong female lead in a film which isn't averse to not taking itself too seriously.