Synopsis: Combining the original spirit that has become the hallmark of the world-famous comic strip with state-of-the-art animation techniques, ASTERIX AND THE VIKINGS restores the full dimension of the funny, refreshing and tender world created by Goscinny and Uderzo.
Asterix and Obelix have been given a tough mission: transform the chief’s lazy son Justforkix into a warrior. Meanwhile, a group of fearless Viking Warriors travels to Asterix’s village in a quest to discover the meaning of fear, as they had heard that fear gives you wings. Unfortunately, it just so happens that the Gaulish Village fear only one thing, that the sky may fall on their heads. The Vikings are out of luck!
eyelights: the animation. the adaptation. the feminist twist.
eyesores: the adaptation.
‘Astérix et les Vikings’ is the eighth installment in the Astérix animated film series. It’s the most recent one (although a ninth one is scheduled for 2014), and it’s based on the book ‘Astérix et les Normands’, also referencing elements of other Astérix books (ex: La Grande Traversée) along the way.
In this version of the tale, Astérix and Obélix are given the task of “making a man” out of their leader’s nephew, a slick urbanite completely at odds with the rough villagers. Meanwhile, a group of vikings set upon the village to find the most coward amongst them, mistakenly believing that fear would give them flight. Thus they pounce on the nephew and our two heroes are tasked with retrieving him.
What’s unusual about this Astérix film is how successful the filmmakers were with the many liberties that they took in adapting the book to the screen. It’s not atypical for a book-to-film transition to require many changes, but it’s very rare for the changes to work so effortlessly, to blend in so smoothly.
Perhaps part of the reason is that the writers went with a few conventions, such as injecting a damsel in distress, and throwing in a romantic subplot that is nowhere to be found in the original book. In so doing, they were able to tap into the expectations of cinema-goers instead of challenging them.
Having said this, it was done rather well, and they did throw in a few touches that I thought were quite nice, such as a girl power element that is fresh to this version of the tale. It may be a sign of the times, but giving the Viking chief a headstrong daughter who wants to be treated on an equal footing as a man was something I enjoyed – especially since it wasn’t overdone or preachy.
One thing that was lost in the adaptation process, unfortunately, was Goscinny’s sense of humour. While the script is actually quite good overall, especially for an animated film, it lacks the zest that usually comes with Astérix. In fact, I recall the original book being quite a gas, silly as it was. it’s not to say that ‘Astérix et les Vikings’ doesn’t have a few light touches, it’s just that humour is used more sparingly here.
However, the film is also less childish than some of its predecessors. Although it isn’t dead serious or too modern, it avoids the pitfall of catering to tikes and serves up an adventure that can be enjoyed by cross-generational audiences. To me, this is a welcome change after the ridiculous bits on offer in previous installments.
The animation in ‘Astérix et les Vikings’ is also a tremendous improvement. Using computer animation in tandem with more traditional techniques, the filmmakers managed to create a far more pleasing film, giving it an incomparable depth and agility. It may not rival American productions, but it’s a major step forward for Astérix and the eye candy pleased me to no end.
The only criticism that one could say about the animation is that the characters don’t blend into the luscious backgrounds as much as one might want them to. This is likely due to them being done in 2D versus the 3D quality of the backdrops, which were much more photorealistic. This is a minor gripe, though, and I’m really nit-picking here.
Because, even though it’s not nearly as fun as ‘Astérix et Cléopâtre‘ and “Astérix chez les Bretons‘, ‘Astérix et les Vikings’ is a much more proficiently-made picture. It doesn’t bring the laughs as much, it’s more conventional, and it’s a huge departure from the book (from the halfway point onward), but it is a well-crafted film that deserves its place as one of the best in the series.
Date of viewing: May 2, 2013