The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Blu-ray Review


Ever since I saw my first Indiana Jones film, I’ve been in love with pulp adventure. There is something so wonderful about intelligent explorers touring the globe in search of ancient and mystical treasure. Unfortunately the entries in this genre don’t come along often enough, which is why I’m happy that The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is being given a DVD and Blu-ray release here in the U.S.

Directed by Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element), The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec tells the story of author and world traveler Adel Blanc-Sec as she searches Egypt for the “the power of life over death”. She’s actually in search of a mummified Pharoah’s physician whom she believes can save her sister, when brought back to life with the help of an elderly French Professor who has figured out how to bring things back to life (including a 136-million-year-old pterodactyl. Still with me? Splendid!).

The character of Adèle, played superbly by Louise Bourgoin, is an intelligent no-nonsense explorer, writer and master of disguise (kind of). She is a pleasure to watch and always has a witty remark before making a daring escape, she also often finds herself roughed-up by government officials, but always manages to take it in stride. It is this balance of intelligent problem-solving, heroism and humorous bad luck that makes Adèle Blanc-Sec such an engaging character to watch and definitely deserves to share the same company with Dr. Indiana Jones.

Adèle Blanc-Sec plays like The Lost World, The Mummy and Indiana Jones by way of Pushing Daisies. Luc Besson, as we all know, is a brilliant filmmaker that can deftly balance special effects while telling a visually stunning story and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is no exception. His camera work is kinetic and reminiscent of the work of Jean Pierre Jeunet or Terry Gilliam, giving the entire film a gonzo larger than life feel. The films is also well cast, populated with interesting faces that enhance the graphic novel vibe of the material and while serving as archetypes for the comedy and adventure.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of the story that seems tangental and there is a middle section of the film, in which Adèle is trying to break someone out of prison, that drags due to overuse of a gag. These subplots, though entertaining and interconnected, distract form the core of the story: the love Adele feels for her sister and the guilt she feels over her condition. These lengthy subplots rob the sister relationship of the gravitas it requires. However, I should point out that this storytelling oversight doesn’t make the film any less enjoyable and if you check the deleted scenes, you can see more of the sisterly relationship building that was left on the cutting room floor.

The film also has some strange tone shifts, mainly dealing with Adèle and her sister. These scenes are in stark contrast to the comedic adventure happening in the rest of the film. However, they integrate better the more of the backstory that gets introduced and as sad as the sister’s introduction is, the resolution is quite charming.

It should also be noted that this film uses CGI the way it was meant to be used, as a tool to augment makeup and puppetry. The creature effect in this film are fun and though not “realistic” they are stylized in such a way as to evoke the work of Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen. The mummies in this film are some of the best character animation I’ve seen in a long time, using CGI to create real and entertaining characters that interact with live action subjects.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a pleasure to watch. It’s charming and fantastic and the classic sense of the word, providing it’s audience with a dash of everything. If you’re a fan of old fashioned, turn of the century adventure like Titin or Atlantis: The Lost Empire, don’t miss The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec.

(Movie Grade: B)

Video Quality

The video quality of this Blu-ray presentation was top notch, and the picture was crystal-clear. With director Besson’s penchant for wide shots of gorgeous and colorful compositions (like The Fifth Element), the presentation on disc more than did justice to the sumptuous color palette. The scenes with Adèle in Egypt at the beginning of the film should be all of the proof the audience needs as to the quality of video, as it looks like a hyper-Lawrence of Arabia.

(Video Grade: A+)

Audio Quality

The audio in this film is extremely clear and the balance between dialogue, foley and the beautiful score by Eric Serra all compliment each other extremely well to create a cohesive and enjoyable auditory experience. NOTE: [Foreign language purists should beware, the Blu-ray defaults to the English dubbed version, easily solvable in the language menu, but is off-putting when you’re expecting the original French.]

(Audio Grade: A)


Because The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec covers a great deal of ground in both plot and character, by the end of the film you could be left wanting more; particularly with regard to the relationship between Adèle and her sister Agathe. The reason for Adèle’s most recent globe-trotting adventure entirely hinges on her relationship with her sister. Unfortunately most of the flashbacks that led to the unfortunate accident were excised from the movie and now exist in the form of deleted scenes. These scenes seem to be part of a larger montage, and therefore don’t sit well on their own, but are fun to watch nonetheless, and give Agathe a character we do not see until the end of the film.

The “Making of” and Music featurettes are both welcome additions to Blu-ray. The “Making Of” goes into the origins of the film, beginning with the graphic novels created by Jacques Tardi. The behind the scenes look also goes into the details of casting, make-up and set design and how the world of Adèle was created for the film. The music featurette is simply a tiny look at Adèle actress, Louise Bourgoin as she records a song for the film.

(Extras Grade B+)

Final Reaction

The movie is visually stunning and serves as a wonderful modern throwback to the pulp adventures our grandparents enjoyed. The video and audio presentation are both clear, well balanced and serve the story Besson and company were telling. This movie will not be for everyone, but if you enjoy this type of material and aren’t scared away by subtitles, the Blu-ray of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec will fit nicely on your shelf in between The Adventures of Tintin and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Overall Grade: A-

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