ASTERIX: THE MANSION OF THE GODS
ASTERIX AND THE LAND OF GODS
(Asterix: Le Domaine des Dieux)
Goscinny and Uderzo collaborated with the Belgian animation company Dargaud Films to make several Asterix films, beginning with Asterix the Gaul (1967). With the subsequent Asterix and Cleopatra (1968) and The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976), Goscinny and Uderzo even signed on as co-directors. Dargaud made several other films with Asterix Vs Caesar (1985), Asterix in Britain (1986) and Asterix and the Big Fight (1989). In more recent years, the French company M6 Studio, who also co-produce The Mansion of the Gods, have taken over and made several animated films with Asterix Conquers America (1994) and Asterix and the Vikings (2006). There were also a series of live-action Asterix films starring Gerard Depardieu as Obelix with Asterix and Obelix vs Caesar (1999), Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra (2002), Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008) and Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia (2012).
The film here is based on The Mansion of the Gods (1973), which was the seventeenth of the Asterix books. The film version is written and co-directed by French writer/actor Alexandre Astier, best known for the hit comedic tv series Kaamelott (2004-9), which retells the Arthurian legends in modern form. Astier keeps extremely faithfully to the original text, only expanding and altering the story slightly when it comes to the various parties running around at the climax.
There have been twelve other Asterix films (eight animated, four in live-action). The Mansion of the Gods takes an entirely new approach in that it is the first computer-animated Asterix film and the first presented in 3D. I must confess I initially had some misgivings about this the stills and trailer showed they had turned the familiar characters into rounded CGI figures, which seemed a world away from the richly textured but extremely 2D panels and characters of the original comic-books. That said, as one soon absorbed into this, the difference was forgotten and what transpires emerges as the best of all of the Asterix films to date.
All of the other Asterix films have tried and occasionally succeeded in their own way but The Mansion of the Gods feels like the first of the films that works with the wit, zaniness and slapstickery that the Goscinny and Uderzo originals were intended. Obelixs punches cause Romans to go flying with the sort of trajectories that rockets make, Asterixs feet blur like bicycle wheels when he runs, the Gauls fight in big dust clouds. All of the supporting characters come on and do their respective pieces the way they do in the comic-books. Louis Clichy and Alexandre Astier are not afraid to be silly and some of the most enjoyable moments come in the wackiness of sequences the replanting of all the trees being a standout. What works especially well is the grand climax the film builds up to with the villagers without potion having to face off against the Roman soldiers.
This also perhaps the first Asterix adaptation that works fully with the sly wit that is packed into the comic-book. Most of the other animated films have pitched the stories down to children where this has tended to get lost. There is quite a degree of satiric humour aimed at issues like urban sprawl, price wars and cultural pollution, while there is something particularly funny to the way the film swings the issue of the slaves demanding their rights and striking for wages, only to be followed by the centurions demanding the same. There is even a series of puns and wordplays that manage to survive in subtitled translation.
(Screening Courtesy of Sparks Animation Festival)