When it comes to bringing the adventures of Asterix to the audiovisual there has always been an essential translation problem. One who linked the creature of Albert Uderzo Y René Goscinny with Lucky Luke, Goscinny also signed, rather than with Tintin from Hergé, Whose editorial reign the Gauls came to challenge in the 1960s.
Is about the possession of an aesthetic universe of its own, of defined rules but alien to our own reality. To this, the bangs reporter did render an account due to his efforts to rigorously portray his details and idiosyncrasies; where Hergé wanted to demolish any stereotype as Tintin was gaining fame and became a champion of multuculturality, Asterix lived by and for this stereotype.
Thus, the work of Uderzo and Goscinny had assumed that it was to be offered as a distorted reflection of our world. An increasingly ornate and corrosive cartoon, more similar to the imaginary of Francisco Ibáñez than that of other illustrious Franco-Belgian references, and who made their existence beyond the original vignettes impossible unless valuable ingredients were left on the road.
"An Asterix in real image would simply be a monster"I thought Pierre Tchernia, Goscinny's partner and close friend, in the mid-sixties. The French director launched this trial in the framework of the production of ‘Deux romains en Gaule’ (1967), ruling out the possibility that the famous Gallic starred in the film.
It was also released shortly before antes Deux romains en Gaule ’was broadcast on television and was thus consummated the first of the many appearances of Astérix in the audiovisual. Because, in the Goscinny and Uderzo creature's extensive relationship with it, logic has never been a significant variable.
The plan of Claude Contamine, from the Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française Office, had no cracks. With ten issues published to date, Asterix and Obelix had become a money-making machine capable of allowing their creators to devote themselves to nothing but devising new adventures. And you had to take advantage of it. Horizons had to be broadened.
However, Goscinny and Uderzo's refusal to let their characters make the leap to television — and to live action, specifically — ended up leading to a drastic change in plans. 'Deux romains en Gaule' ended up set in the same universe as Asterix and Obelix, where the adventures of legionaries Prospectus and Ticketbus (Roger Pierre Y Jean-Marc Thibault) led them through scenarios and motifs that were highly recognizable to readers, while carefully ambiguous.
In the argument of ux Deux romains en Gaule ’there were echoes of ‘Asterix and the Goths’ or ‘The Golden Sickle’ —Like everything related to the protagonists' stay in Lutecia—, while they alternated with the existence of magic potions capable of making you shrink and, yes, a stellar appearance of the character that had motivated everything.
When the time came, in this telefilm announced as "variety program" none other than Uderzo appeared, painting a drawing of Asterix on the road, and then the Gallic came to life to the excitement of the spectators. Pierre Tchernia, who ended up directing the film, was able to maintain the entity of the creature thanks to this kind of detour, but his it wasn't the only project that at that time was developing in the wake of ‘Asterix’.
Georges Dargaud had bought Pile a year after Goscinny and Uderzo founded it, in 1960. More or less during the production of ‘Deux romains en Gaule’ – whose script Goscinny and Uderzo wrote – he decided unilaterally that Dargaud Films, mediating the Belgian animation studio Belvision, produce as soon as possible a film based on the irreducible Gauls. His parents agreed, or not.
Ray goosens, a Belvision-based artist who in 1964 had successfully completed the animated series of ‘The Adventures of Tintin', was chosen to direct ‘Asterix the Gallic’, based on the character's first published adventure. Initially thought – and like ‘Deux romains’ – for television, Dargaud gradually came up with the project, and ended up releasing the December 20, 1967 in French theaters.
It is easy to understand the enthusiasm of the publisher, since ‘Asterix the Gallic’ was an extremely worthy product, which could also benefit from a memorable soundtrack by Gérard Calvi. The least stimulating detail was a discreet script and too attached to the original material, the work of a team of writers aware of the outrage they were incurring behind Goscinny and Uderzo.
Indeed, 'Asterix the Gallic' went ahead without their permission, and is something that can be easily appreciated by watching the film. Unlike last adaptations where Goscinny and Uderzo were involved, there is great fear of any possible leak, configuring something like a moving photocopy without much interest.
It was obvious, despite everything, that the animated medium could contain without great dissonance the occurrences of these two artists, and so it was that Dargaud immediately planned the production of a sequel based on 'The Golden Sickle' … instantly sabotaged by Goscinny and Uderzo. Not this time. This time, if Asterix had a movie, her parents would have something to say about it.
Just a year later it was released ‘Asterix and Cleopatra’, also produced by Belvision but with Goscinny and Uderzo as directors and screenwriters. The qualitative leap made from ‘Asterix the Gallic’ is, therefore, notorious, and it is perceived from the introduction scene, dedicated to fooling around with the ways of communication of the Egyptians with the hieroglyphs as a target.
This prologue did not appear in the original comic – which, encoded entirely as a parody of the failed blockbuster starring Elizabeth Taylor in 1963 with the title of ‘Cleopatra’, already realized increasing sophistication in the satirical intentions of their authors — just as the songs that dotted the plot didn't.
As production managers, Goscinny and Uderzo conceived ‘Asterix and Cleopatra’ as a way to expand the expressive possibilities of comics, not only as regards the specific caricature but also from the very nature of the proposal. Perhaps looking at the successful Disney films, the directors wanted to justify the transfer of media – what they did not worry about doing 'Asterix the Gallic' – and ‘Asterix and Cleopatra’ became a musical.
In its assembly it highlighted a number in which Obélix, hungry as usual, fantasized about wild boars, and it is possible to trace him a direct Disney influence, specifically that of the binge of Umbo Dumbo ’ (1941). The peculiarities of his animation, less figurative and more spontaneous than ever, bear witness to this.
To find the next film based on ‘Asterix’ we must jump to seven years later, when Uderzo and Goscinny founded together with Georges Dargaud the Studios Idéfix. In 1974 an animation studio opened its doors whose logo parodied the irascible lion of the Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, replaced by the Idéfix puppy with a friendly bark. Beneath it, in Latin, an appropriate phrase could be read: "These Romans are crazy".
The genesis of ‘The twelve tests of Asterix’ —Perhaps the adventure outside the comics luckier of the Gauls— can be understood from two factors. First, Goscinny's purpose for doing something similar to what Asterix had done with his film ‘Lucky Luke: The Fearless’ (1971), developing a totally original story facing the big screen.
Secondly, absolute maturity that in that decade took over the ‘Asterix’ comics. Numbers like ‘The residence of the gods’ (1971) u ‘Obelix and company (1976) – an overwhelming dissection of capitalism that ended up raiding the faculties of economics -, they witnessed a kind of climax in the vitriol with which Goscinny presented his stories, and ‘The twelve tests’ could benefit from this state of creative boiling.
Following the natural course of things this same state led to a razor sharp script, where each one of the tests was conceived as a joke instantly surpassed by the next one – finding its culmination in the already iconic sequence of the House Going Crazy and his hilarious vision of bureaucracy-, but it also resulted in an element that would mark the cinematographic adaptations of ‘Asterix’ ever since.
We talk about self-awareness. The first time we saw the little Gallic warrior in ‘The Twelve Trials’, he was introduced by the narrator — Pierre Tchernia lending his voice for the first time of many — as an international celebrity. With his adventures translated in various countries, he insisted, and then put Asterix greeting the camera using different languages.
This shake of the diegesis, flirting with the fourth wall and with a pop stage to which she could resort without pregnancy, was not exactly new. In the end, anachronism was one of Goscinny and Uderzo's preferred tools to provoke laughter with his creations … but he had never come this far. I had never dropped so confused that Outside of the comics, anything went.
‘The twelve tests of Asterix’, in addition to being a pioneer in the creation of a truly cinematographic protagonist –able to grow beyond their starting medium-, It also stands out for its careful technique. Apart from that, in the years that would follow, it would be gradually abandoned to carelessness.
To bring their images to life, Goscinny and Uderzo turned to the xerography that Disney had already used in '101 Dalmatians' (1961). Thanks to it, which saved time with inking, the characters abandoned the stillness that they exhibited in previous films, embracing a dynamism whose occasional imperfection —substantial to the technique— caused the designs to appear shaky, hesitant. As aware that this was not his element, but gradually securing the steps through it.
Gérard Calvi returned to work as a composer, and his contribution was just what was missing to finish turning ‘The twelve tests of Asterix’ into a cult film, enough to claim the production of Studios Idéfix although this should be limited to said work and ‘The Dalton Ballad’ (1978). He did not have time, since René Goscinny would die of cardiac arrest in 1977.
From Brittany to America
Goscinny's death It was so shocking that a shocked Uderzo had to echo it through his own creations. In 1979 it was published ‘Asterix in Belgium’, and readers were able to discover at what point in its development the screenwriter had died due to the weather. Towards the middle of the volume, it was beginning to rain. And, until the end, it wouldn't stop.
It is common among ‘Asterix’ scholars to consider the time when Uderzo –that also left us a few days ago– He also began writing the scripts as the beginning of the decline of the character. While the change is noticeable even on his best albums — like ‘Asterix's Odyssey’ or the joyful ‘Asterix in India’-, the area that most suffered from the loss of Goscinny was the film.
The films that followed doce The twelve tests of Asterix ’were characterized by a very blurred creative vision, the main victim of a hustle and bustle with the rights of the character that lasted from the late seventies to the mid-nineties, and which did not bequeath us precisely his best cinematographic approaches.
It must be said, however, that the film intended to inaugurate this disorientation was really fine. ‘Asterix and the surprise of Caesar’ (1985) was also produced by Dargaud Films, now in association with Gaumont, and it tried out a strategy for the first time, then very often: the combination of ‘Asterix’ albums to find a story that combines the best of these.
Since the numbers chosen were two totems of the size of ‘Gladiator Asterix’ Y ‘Legionnaire's Asterix’, the chances of the invention working they were tall. Pierre Tchernia was commissioned to write, while the studio appointed directors as Gaëtan Y Paul Brizzi, animators who a year later would found their own studio and work for Disney, specifically in ‘DuckTales: The Treasure of the Lost Lamp’ (1990).
The first thing to note about ‘Caesar's Surprise’, in fact, is the good taste of your visual concept, inherited from ‘The Twelve Tests’ but with a greater interest in light, with games with shadows being common before which the orthopedics of previous efforts like ‘Asterix the Gallic’ was aging by leaps and bounds.
Sequences like the one from the beginning, when Obelix fell in love with FalbalahThey also boasted a certain muscle in natural settings, proclaiming that since the 1960s 'Asterix' had not stopped progressing visually, although the script did not always keep up. Obviously, ‘Caesar's surprise’ is found away from the dazzling ingenuity of ‘The Twelve Tests’, but it is fair to say that Tchernia does not intend to aspire to it either.
On the contrary, the partner of Goscinny and Uderzo is content to take full advantage of the comic book cartoons and prop up their humorous possibilities, as everything makes clear. the most memorable segment dedicated to the training of the protagonists as legionaries. One where Asterix takes his charisma for a walk, and that could have perfectly constituted some of the evidence of the previous film.
Unfortunately this progress was interrupted in the next movie, ‘Asterix in Brittany’ (1986). Which, without being a mess, began to allow the monotony to invade their budgets with an artistic department without interest in delving into the achievements of ‘The surprise of Caesar’ and a script, also by Tchernia, more conservative than ever in his adaptive work.
The film of Van Lamsweerde Pine, also produced by the entente Dargaud-Gaumont, gave way in 1989 to ‘Asterix and the blow of the menhir’, who mixed the plots of ‘The boss fight’ Y ‘The fortune teller’. The decline in animation quality was, this time, downright dramatic, even if it left room for a series of treacherous exercises capable of provoking healthy stupor doses.
The soundtrack had been losing prominence in previous films, without us returning to attend musical numbers "Cigars" from more or less ‘Asterix and Cleopatra’, but in ‘The blow of the menhir’ he made an appearance again with a sequence led by the bard Asurancetúrix (Who else) reacting with rock and roll (or something like that) to the brain suddenly alienated from Panoramic.
The village druid had been driven insane by Obelix's negligence, and his altered conscience was to give rise to the Philippe Grimond to some other sequence of generous lysergic flow. Apart from the bard's performance, we attended a long sequence here where Panorámix tried different magic potions with a poor Roman soldier, originating a multitude of surreal images.
In these images, the proportions and movements of the characters changed severely, but the manufacture was so cheap that ‘The blow of the menhir’ was not as anarchic as those responsible could claim, but just grotesque. Just exemplifying the aesthetic suicide that Tchernia predicted in 67, but within cartoons.
‘Asterix and the blow of the menhir’, a German-French co-production, was followed in 1994 by the somewhat more drinkable ‘Asterix in America’. Finally produced outside the margins of Dargaud and Gaumont, they were now in charge of financing the invention Extrafilm, Pathé and Fox, who were somewhat more generous with the budget and favored a decent finish, taking up the lighting of ‘The surprise of Caesar’ and care in mixing adaptation and invention within its history.
Freely following the argument of ‘The great journey’, ‘Asterix in America’ stemmed from a failed attempt to take to the cinema ‘Asterix in Hispania’ and, wanting to celebrate the centenary of discovery of Christopher Columbus, put the protagonists in contact with the Native Americans. He returned the musical numbers, and tried to settle again the belief that animation was the only possible means for Asterix.
This belief did not have much time to live.
With the "live action" we have come across
The phase in real action of the Asterix cinema has been one capable of the best and the worst, and also the one that has most ferociously collected the ideas launched by doce The twelve tests ’. The formidable film by Uderzo and Goscinny seemed to question his reason for being at every minute, forcing the link with the cartoons and their anachronisms to their ultimate consequences –in one scene they even visited the Alesia metro station– And when Asterix was made of flesh and blood, he did it by working on these mistakes.
At first, shyly. ‘Asterix and Obelix against César’ It was directed in 1999 by Claude Zidi after tireless attempts as producers of Thomas Langmann Y Claude Berry, dating back a decade earlier. In its gestation, those responsible for the film were greatly concerned about the radical nature of the change in the medium, and at an early point in the process, the suggestion that it was "realistic".
Did this lead to predictable goodbye? Absolutely. ‘Asterix and Obelix against César’ wanted to operate in a very precarious balance between human limitations and the 'cartoon' barrabasadas, adapting your invoice to the Hollywood blockbuster model of the turn of the century and seasoning it with the digital effects of Pitof. Originating, then, a much more stimulating product than was said in its day.
In fact, the recreation of the Gallic world – full of details that reinforce its closeness to the new medium, such as the vest that Gérard Depardieu led to debut as Obelix – is much less problematic than the supporting script, saturated by the accumulation of plots that refer to several different numbers, and laid the foundation on which the new film Asterix would move. One much more ambitious than the one out of the animation.
And one that initially had the traits of Christian Clavier and he was able to benefit from great chemistry with Depardieu, whose Obelix gained prominence with respect to the bullets. At the time, of course, that the Detritus of Roberto Benigni defended their hostile status giving Guido a sinister turn 'Life is Beautiful' (1997).
Added to all this was a wonderful musical section by Jean-Jacques Goldman and a handful of sequences that absorbed brilliantly the festive spirit of comics —Like the initial fight in the village or the first battle against the Romans, with exquisite anticipation displayed in slow motion—, and we had a wonderful adaptation of ‘Asterix’, capable of sweeping the box office and change the sign of future visions.
We thus arrive at ‘Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra’ (2002), immediate sequel that led shamelessness and postmodern sensitivity from ‘The twelve tests’, absent in ‘Contra César’, to bizarre horizons as capable of shocking the long-distance fan as of polishing a new economic success, that did not make the creatures disgust.
The fault was Alain Chabat. This French comedian had won in 1997 the César for Best First Film by ‘Didier’, and had never hidden his passion for the films of Jim Abrahams and the brothers Zucker. Interested as he was in the absurd distortion of reality, attending not only to the characters that populated it but also to its own architectureHe found in ‘Mission Cleopatra’ the perfect excuse to lose his temper.
Because what is ‘Mission Cleopatra’ but a disheveled. A blockbuster whose ultimate responsibility – who also writes the script and plays Julius Caesar– he cares more about being faithful to his voice than the comic, using the alibi made by ‘The twelve tests’ to give rise to an exhausting show, free and totally devoid of prejudice. Where it is as possible that the action is interrupted by a documentary about locusts as that the protagonists are bothered by the mike, and talk about it, in full scene.
The greatest ally for Chabat's proposal – which, to the surprise of no one, did not like critics too much – was Jamel Debbouze, composing an anthological Numerobis who, in addition to having a meal with Depardieu, Clavier or Monica Bellucci in each scene they shared, he would star alongside Paletabis (Gérard Darmon) a martial arts duel between Doric columns to take off your hat.
The question, of course, is whether all of this did justice to the vision of Goscinny and Uderzo. And the truth is that no. ‘Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra’ It is a huge comedy snort, but a rather poor adaptation of the character. And even cynical, if we understand his affiliation to the devastating spirit of ‘The twelve tests ’as an archetypal case of shaking hands and taking your arm.
In addition, the consequences of its commercial success They were absolutely pitiful. Chabat had shown that that of ‘Asterix’ was an imaginary that heresies did not have to harm, because it was a cultural heritage with which, as long as you were French, you could do whatever you want. That is just what producer Thomas Langmann, in his jump to direction, did with ‘Asterix at the Olympic Games’ (2008).
Co-directed by Frédéric Forestier, ‘Asterix at the Olympic Games’ it is excess by excess. Chabat's speech, wanting to erect the Gallic as a multipurpose national icon, had managed to make ‘Mission Cleopatra’ a crazy comedy capable of giving everything for the viewer, but Langmann took it, twisted it and turned it into a kind of 'Torrent' French style. And we don't say it just because Santiago Segura appears.
Asterix's third "live action" adventure included cameos from people like Zinédine Zidane, Michael Schumacher and even a return from Jamel Debbouze (which for what he does better to stay at home), and his attachment to comics was already so tangential that nobody cared that his mix between 'The Olympic Games' and 'Legionnaire Asterix' squeaks everywhere. There were other things to worry about.
For example, from a Benoît Poelvoorde, incarnating Brutus, absolutely unbearable and capable by himself of sinking the only certainly positive element of this dread, as was the construction of Julius Caesar who practices Alain Delon. The rest, such as the replacement of Clavier at the hands of Clovis Cormillac, would be forgettable if not The mere fact of remembering caused so much pain.
Massacred by critics and with a box office tending to the downside, ‘Asterix and the Olympic Games’ gave way in 2012 to the last adaptation in real action made to date: ‘Asterix and Obelix: At the service of His Majesty’. With a much smaller budget, Édouard Baer replacing Cormillac as the third Asterix after appearing curiously in ‘Mission
Cleopatra ’, and being, against all odds, an even worse movie.
Directed by Laurent Tidard —That he had already taken another Goscinny character to the cinema, in 'Little Nicholas' (2009) -, ‘At the service of His Majesty’ is, if possible, more offensive because of how he intends to turn his back on the monstrous previous shows to make the reality of comics pass to a poor cardboard-stone stage. A proposal that would come to be like a Disney live action remake with no money, and so outrageous in his drawing of the people of the United Kingdom as to provoke at least three Brexits.
The "brittish" stereotyping, which was already cultivated within the cinema by ‘Asterix in Brittany’, here is just one of the many faces of infamy, capable of drowning the viewer with its curtness, its lack of grace and a Fabrice Luchini like Julius Caesar particularly vomiting. Pushing us to the certainty that no intellectual property deserved this, and Asterix less than none.
The only good thing that 'In His Majesty's service' could have, in short, would be its revealing condition of dead end. The different metalinguistic games, which had endorsed the relevance of the previous proposals in real action, showed here that they did not give more of themselves, but we cannot even rely on their box office failure advising to stop the production of similar films to breathe easy.
And there is another ‘asterix’ live action ’movie on the way. Its titled ‘Astérix et Obélix: L’Empire du Milieu’, and is directed, written and starring Guillaume Canet. Marion Cotillard plays Cleopatra and Depardieu has finally said goodbye to Obelix, being replaced by Gilles Lellouche. The only hope to hold on to at this point is that try to get as far away from the Tidard precedent as possible.
Recovering the magic of the Asterix comics
The setbacks under the umbrella of ‘live action’ could give the impression that the cinematic Asterix is even worse than it was during the mediocre animated efforts of the turn of the century. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 2006, right between ‘Mission Cleopatra’ and ‘Asterix at the Olympic Games’, a revolution was hinted.
M6 Films, belonging to the all-powerful French media group M6, produced that year ‘Asterix and the Vikings’, done in 2D but small digital touches. These had already been slightly explored in ‘Asterix in America’, and here they reinforced a very compact aesthetic proposal, able to compete unequivocally in the traditional animation market, reduced at the time but always aware of its evolution.
The best of ‘Asterix and the Vikings’ did not lie, however, in their technical expertise, but in the wisdom of their adaptation. Reviewing ‘Asterix and the Normans’ —That six years later would be one of the references of ‘At the service of His Majesty’—, the film directed by Stefan Fjeldmark Y Jesper Moller recovered the spirit of ‘Asterix’ and mixed it with new sensibilities, antecedent the celebrated relay of Uderzo as the total author of the comics at the hands of Jean-Yves Ferri Y Didier Conrad.
The appearance of the seasoned Abba would thus become an inspiration for ‘Vercingétorix's daughter’, published in 2019, and would add freshness to the interactions of the protagonists. In this case, moreover, its toll on the environment would not have repercussions on demolitions of the fourth wall, but on light winks at pop culture – reduced to training with ‘Eye of the Tiger’– that they were moving away from the atrophy of ‘The Olympic Games’, which two years later would include a lightsaber in one of his scenes.
‘Asterix and the Vikings’ was well received, but it would take M6 a long time to play with the work of Goscinny and Uderzo again. In the new decade, the studio contacted Louis Clichy Y Alexandre Astier. The latter had become well known in France thanks to his writing of the series ‘Kaamelott’, comedy set in the Middle Ages of bridges easily noticeable to our warrior.
Clichy and Astier premiered in 2014 ‘Asterix: The residence of the gods’; same year, curiously, in which our Javier Fesser directed ‘Mortadelo and Filemón against Jimmy el Cachondo’ trying a similar aesthetic rectification. Porque así es como hay que entender ‘La residencia de los dioses’, como una rectificación. Una vuelta a las esencias tras los desmanes que se habían cometido en nombre de la sobrevalorada acción real.
Lanzada dos años después de ‘Al servicio de Su Majestad’, el estupendo film de Clichy y Astier dejaba claro que Astérix nunca debía haber abandonado la animación, adaptando con solvencia una de sus historias más complejas. Los personajes de ‘La residencia de los dioses’ bregaban con el desfase entre modernidad y tradición, y así podía entenderse también el esfuerzo de la película por engrosar el canon audiovisual de Astérix.
Sus pequeñas deficiencias, reducidas a una animación digital no demasiado depurada, serían plenamente corregidas en 'Astérix: El secreto de la poción mágica’ (2018). Mucho más valiente, mucho más sofisticada, y capaz de rivalizar con ‘Las doce pruebas’ como mejor adaptación de la criatura de Goscinny y Uderzo. No por nada, sino porque ambos films pretendían lo mismo: ser capaces de hallar el alma de Astérix en una historia original.
En el argumento de ‘El secreto de la poción mágica’ se dan cita ‘El combate de los jefes’ y ‘Astérix y los godos’, pero también hay mucho de Terry Pratchett y sus ‘Ritos iguales’ —cuando examina irónicamente las normas de sucesión de los druidas—, e incluso de la sensibilidad eminentemente pop de ‘¡El cielo se nos cae encima!’, última aventura original de Uderzo en la que los galos conocían a alienígenas parecidos a Mickey Mouse.
‘El secreto de la poción mágica’ es capaz, por tanto, de examinar el pasado de Astérix al tiempo que lo proyecta hacia el presente sin coartadas meta, en la mejor tradición de lo que podría hacer Goscinny si siguiera vivo, o de lo que ya de hecho están haciendo Ferri y Conrad en las viñetas. Es una adaptación que da cuenta del gran estado de salud con el que cuenta el personaje actualmente, y las posibilidades que siguen divisándose en el horizonte.
Clichy y Astier, lamentablemente, han declarado que no están interesados en dirigir una nueva película de ‘Astérix’, pero lo que ha de importarnos es que al menos han dejado claro cuál es el camino a seguir. Y esperemos, por Tutatis, que el cine no vuelva a apartarse de él.