Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Twelve Tasks of Asterix

Le Douze travaux d'Asterix; animated comedy, France, 1976; D: René Goscinny, Albert Uderzo; S: Roger Carel, Pierre Tornade, Jacques Morel, Jean Martinelli
50 years B. C. Julius Caesar makes a deal with the invincible Gaul village: if they solve 12 impossible tasks, then they will become the rulers of Rome, but if they fail, they will have to accept the Roman occupation. Asterix and Obelix, under the surveillance of the observer Vitalstatistix, accept the challenge. The tasks are: to run faster than the fastest man, to throw a javelin farther than Verses, beat the invincible fighter, eat all the meals from a master cook, survive a cave of horrors, find permit A-38, cross an invisible bridge...They succeed, and become the new rulers of Rome.

With the movies from the serial about the most famous French animated character Asterix one can apply an unwritten rule: either they are weak or they are genius. The three movies from the middle of the serial can be placed in the second category, the first one of which was "Asterix and the 12 Tasks". Curiously, since the serial started, each subsequent movie was better from the previous: as much as the second film was better than the first, the third is better than the first two put together. Actually, it's a very unusual contribution to the Asterix saga since it wasn't based on a comic book and which could have even de facto ended the adventures of the hero. Unusual, chopped up, episodic story about the two heroes solving the 12 tasks blends in with the rest of the Asterix movies as much as let's say Disney's Snow White blends in into "Shin Seiki Evangelion". Still, unlike a mass of forced and repulsive postmodern animated characters, Asterix and Obelix in this case seem and act completely natural, possessing a dose of irresistible charm while they solve the impossible tasks with ease, from the one where they shout at the ghost because he disturbs them at sleeping at night up to the one in the building where they have to get a useless Permit A-38, which proves to be one of the grandest satires on bureaucracy ever. One can say, the 13th task would be to resist watching this, and the 14th to say one didn't at least a little bit enjoy in the satirical humor displayed.


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