29/08/2013

Asterix versus Caesar (1985)

Film: Asterix Versus Caesar
Release: 1985, Theatrical
Starring: Roger Carel, Pierre Tornade, Serge Sauvion
Directed by: Gaëtan BrizziPaul Brizzi
Previous in the series: The Twelve Tasks of Asterix
Next in the series: Asterix in Britain
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When an overly ambitious recruit in the Roman Legion kidnaps the chief's niece and her fiancé, Asterix & Obelix are sent on an adventure to bring them back

Hans' thoughts:

In most of the Asterix movies, the roman empire is presented as sort of stock villains, being an all encompassing force that either controls or works with the main villain of the story. This is one of the stories where the Romans are actually the main event, being a constant source of peril throughout the story. 

Asterix Versus Caesar is actually an adaptation of two Asterix books, Asterix the Legionary and Asterix the Gladiator. The story takes most from Asterix the Legionary (though tweaking it), as the kidnapped ones in this case are Panacea and Tragicomix. In the original story, Tragicomix was actually drafted for the Roman army and sent to Africa, whereas the whole kidnapping part comes from Asterix The Gladiator, where the Romans kidnap the bard Cacofonix. Why they decided to mix these two particular stories together I don't know, other than the whole rescue mission angle the stories actually don't have all that much in common.

While this movie certainly doesn't do the source material any favors, rest assured that it's definitely a fun movie. The wít and charm of the comics are attempted here, with varying but mostly positive results. I also have to admit that this is the only Asterix movie I've seen where Caesar actually seems threatening. He's a threat in the other stories to be sure, but unlike most other stories he's not used that much for comedic effect. In this movie, the lack of presence during most of the movie, the idle threats followed by chuckles and the fact that he's got a pet panther running around just made him into such a sinister looming figure.

Overall though, this movie could have been so much better than it turned out to be considering the strong source material. A lot of the smiles of the comics are gone, as the movie has been given the "adult treatment" trying to make the audience take the movie more serious than they probably should. The best comparison I can come up with is the extreme change of tone between the two last Sam Raimi Spider-man Films. It's just too focused on a sense of drama that, in reality, doesn't have a place in this series. There are scenes where we follow the captives, and most of the time you will want the movie to go back to Asterix and Obelix instead of seeing Tragicomix being a stoic hero. There's a reason his name is what it is.

After this movie, Asterix would go back to have more focus on the comedic aspect of the series, the next in line being Asterix in Britain. As an experiment, this is a nice little movie but I have to admit that the fact that none of the other animated Asterix movies tried to focus on the "drama" that the series had a pinch of potential for makes me happy. It's hard to bash this movie, but I feel that most of that comes from the nostalgic value this has for me.

All in all this is one of the weaker Asterix movies, though still leagues ahead of some of the worst. If you don't really have a fondness for Asterix, you can give this a pass without missing out in much.
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