18 months after it’s original foreign language release, Asterix The Mansions of the Gods lands in UK cinemas with a strong English language voiceover cast and a good translation, and most importantly of all, the vast majority of it’s Asterix-ness heartily intact.
If you haven’t heard of Asterix, you must have had your head under a rock (menhir) for the last 50 years- the picture books, along with Tintin, were a staple of my childhood and are now a staple of my children’s too. Even from the trailer, the care in the translations of Albert Uderzo’s illustration to the modern 3D animated movie screen is readily apparent, something that carries on into the adaptation itself.
Asterix The Mansions of the Gods follows the 17th Asterix book of the same name, published in 1971, pretty faithfully, right down to the level of comic Gaul on Gaul violence in the village that is so great about the comics. If you have popped your head out from under that menhir and are wondering what Asterix is all about, Asterix follows a small village of indomitable Gauls during the Roman occupation. Thanks to the magical potion that imbues great strength, brewed by their Druid Getafix, the village are able to hold of the legions of mighty Rome, much to Julius Caesar’s chagrin.
There is much to like about Asterix Mansions of the Gods. The plot is easy for little kids to follow, there are plenty of puns in the names of the characters to get chuckles from the adults, as well as the belligerent slaves who ultimately thwart everyone’s attempts to guess what they’ll do.
There is more comic violence than you’ll see in most kids films but it’s somehow not as “violent”- there is a lot of thumping people but you tend so see Roman soldiers flying around, having teeth knocked out and eyes blackened, nobody looks remotely close to being dead at any point.
The one point to look for in any foreign language film is the quality of the English language dubbing. It’s as good as you could possibly hope for, the casting is good and the pacing is almost natural- spoken French is a lot faster than English, so on translation the English can often sound like people are speaking really fast with no natural pauses. It is noticable in one or two instances but it it’s nowhere near as bad as it is in some children’s classics like Dogtanian and the Three Muskahounds.
With a run time of 85 minutes, Asterix Mansions of the Gods is a lean film with no excess padding. This helps keep the interest but you don’t really feel like you’ve been cheated either, it’s the obvious natural run time for the story to be told in.
All our kids loved it, from the 4 year old up to the 9 year old. The fact that I have Lowestoft libraries copy of Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, return date November 1981 (we moved) sitting on my shelf at home is a source of concern for the eldest but I’ve told him they’ve probably forgotten by now.
Although as far as I can see, the English language version has been out on DVD in North America for a while now, it’s not scheduled for release in Blighty until 12 December, making it an ideal Christmas present for the child you’re going to take to the cinema to see it now.
Ironically, given the remakes, adaptations and reimaginings that have been released this summer, the one that arguably should have the most baggage, Asterix, comes across as the movie least straining under the weight of it’s own history, and it’s all the better for that.
Asterix Mansions of the Gods is out on 19 August, when you go to see it, take your children along and pretend it’s for their benefit. They’ll enjoy it and so will you.