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  • Monday, 26 February 2024
Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom: Silly and lifeless escapade

Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom: Silly and lifeless escapade

This slog of a new Asterix & Obelix is full of fatuities, inane gags and is short on both humour and entertainment. Unfortunately, even if the film is meandering with some honestly-decent ideas, it presents an uninvolving storyline.

Words by Jan Tracz


When we hear about a new Asterix & Obelix movie, we react with a knee-jerk response – it’s always such a joy to see our favourite Gauls on the big screen. However, we tend to forget that there haven't been too many decent films based on the French comic book series. The Middle Kingdom proves that nothing has changed – while its trailer looked promising, its final version is the preview’s antithesis. In this film, Asterix and Obelix go to the Middle Kingdom (as the subtitle implies) to save the Chinese queen. They will fall in love, fight some Romans, or, alternately, quarrel and reconcile. In other words, it is an A.I.-worthy script (we know these leitmotifs by heart) elevated by sheer filmmaking incompetence.   


Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom (2023, Pathé)


Guillaume Canet, an important figure in modern French cinema, takes the reins as a director of the new film from the Asterix & Obelix franchise and he also plays Asterix. Unfortunately, he reminds us about Christian Clavier’s superiority as the first Asterix – the disparity between their comic skills is rather undeniable (but still, Canet is likeable). Even the cast ensemble – Marion Cotillard playing Cleopatra, Vincent Cassel as an annoying Julius Caesar – doesn’t help, but one can presume it’s not their entire fault. It is the case of the whole script, which offers forgettable characters and appears to be, somewhat, “unfinished”. It provides a lot of subplots, but it only ends a few of them. Such a course of events leads to the viewer’s perplexity: is the film finished? What happened? Why now? Is there a hidden scene after the final credits? These questions are unanswerable, but one thing is certain: The Middle Kingdom is a complete waste of money and time, a film that will feel cheesy even for the youngest generation.


The bulk of the action takes place in the eponymous Middle Kingdom, – it is a name for China derived from the translation of its native name – but it only treats these territories as a playground for the countless amount of unfunny jibes and needless conversations between our heroes. Even if there is tangible chemistry between Asterix and Obelix, it comes down to second place due to the film’s lacklustre action. Besides, it is, ultimately, an uninteresting portrayal of both Asian culture and the Gauls’ settlement (who are, practically, absent in this episode). Even if it is a loose adventure film, the number of stereotypes turns out to be (slightly) harmful for Chinese viewers.


 Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom (2023, Pathé)


The more the film relies on childish (and funny humour), the more Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom resembles some puerile whim, directed by older-generation completely unaware of the franchise’s essence. It’s a pity when the only funny element in the whole film is the appearance of Zlatan Ibrahimović, who plays a grotesque Roman general, Caius Antivirus. His presence doesn’t add much to the whole plot, but it at least draws from Zlatan’s god-like persona. When it comes to the rest of the cheap jokes, there is a sense of triteness that slips in. The more you laugh at the same things, the more tiring it becomes. 


Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom provides some amusing fundament, but it never figures out how to finish the story in a proper and rewarding way. Its painful exaggeration positions it to go out on the goofiest note possible. If you thought that Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008) was already an inferior adaptation, you had probably fallen into a cauldron of the Gauls' magic potion, as the legend from the comic books goes. Compared to The Middle Kingdom, it is a comical and refreshing invitation. In the end, the fifth instalment in the series ends up being one huge, repetitive misunderstanding.

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