The Twelve Tasks of Asterix.
(Guest review by Reecey).
When I was but a wee lass, we had a handful of VHSes that I adored. Two were collections of Looney Tunes shorts, and the other two were Asterix films.
Asterix in Britain (which I’ll tackle another time) and The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, which we will talk about today.
Both films are ones that I have fond memories of, but they both have their flaws. In this one the major flaw is this one bafflingly racist throw away section at the beginning, and a suspect at best moment later on.
The first one is when the film is just beginning, and Asterix and the narrator (in English, a man with a lovely and relaxing voice) are boasting about how Asterix is such a great success and has been translated into languages all around the world. Which is impressive, and I do appreciate the fact that they separate Britain and America in this run down. I do not, however, appreciate Asterix saying hello in Japanese and doing that ridiculous stretching your eyes out to the side thing.
What the ever living hell?
Come on guys!
I know it was 1976, but… guys. Guys…
I have no doubt this wasn’t meant to be insulting, but still, guys, guys…
The second one I will bring up as it becomes relevant.
For now, though, let’s briefly explain the plot.
Our premise is (and always is) is that the Roman Empire has its grasp on most of continental Europe, but is having real difficulty with this one small Gaulish village in Armorica.
A quick lesson, by the way, Armorica eventually became present day Brittany. Also, while it is easy to think that Great Britain is named after Brittany, it is actually the other way around. (If you’re interested, Britain is ‘Great’ because it’s bigger than Ireland. The only way you could make it great again is if it shrank.)
Additionally, although he lives in what will become Brittany, Asterix is not a Breton. That is a different ethnic group that moved to Armorica from Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire.
We all clear?
In this particular instance, the great Julius Caesar is getting increasingly frustrated with the incapability of his armies to defeat and subjugate one small village. His council of advising senators (including a knife happy Brutus, nice touch) posit the notion that perhaps these people are gods, or at least demigods.
Caesar (who looks a lot like the Demon Headmaster in these films) dislikes these ideas and decides to put the village to the test to prove one way or another whether or not they are gods.
He goes to visit personally and offers the tribal chief, Vitalstatistix, a deal. He has a list of twelve tasks, if they can pass them all, then he will bow down and Rome will be under their control. However, if they fail, then they must submit to Rome.
As the village druid Getafix is not around to stop him, Vitalstatistix agrees.
Since Asterix is the smartest amongst them, the village sends him, and they send Obelix, the strongest person in the village and Asterix’s best mate.
Getafix gives Asterix a gourd of magic potion.
If you are unaware of this aspect of Asterix, keep reading, if you are, skip ahead.
Basically, Getafix (the male, non-carpet inhabiting Granny Weatherwax) makes this magic potion that imbues its drinkers with great bodily strength. This is the secret to the village’s success against the Romans, and why Obelix is so strong. He was dropped into the potion as a baby, and now he can’t have any. He gets so sad to be left out.
With potion on belt, the two head out with the official sent to oversee them, Caius Tiddlius, and face their first task.
This is a footrace with the champion of the Olympic games, Asbestos. What? Look, their medicine man is called Getafix, how did you not see this coming?
Asterix overcomes this task with a combination of magic potion and horrible gamesmanship.
After this, Obelix beats Verses the Persian in a javelin throwing contest. Notable here are Verses’ huge muscles in the right side of his body (which now I’m older implies new jokes) and the brief cameo of Oumpah-pah, another character by the creators of Asterix.
The next task is to beat Cilindric the German, a small pink man who learned Judo during his travels. He beats Obelix, but is tricked by Asterix into defeat through his greatest weakness; being a nice man who wants to share knowledge about Judo.
Tiddlius tells them the next task is to cross a lake, but the real test is to resist the draw of the priestesses of the Isle of Pleasure. Which Obelix does, because custard and honey for the rest of his life doesn’t appeal, and he drags Asterix with him.
|Editor's note: Do they have Ambrosia in the US?|
I worry for them.
Obelix clears out the kitchen of a chef to the Titans, reducing the man to tears.
They survive the Cave of the Beast, in a wonderfully surreal segment.
After, they must procure form A38 from ‘The place that sends you mad’, which I personally call the house of bureaucrats.
Now, this is where the ‘suspicious at best’ bit shows up. We see a shot of a Roman citizen being carried on a chair with sticks (like a sedan, but high up) by four large black men in grass skirts.
Tiddlius says about this shot and a couple of others (including a horse being carried in a chariot being pulled by men) that they’ve been to the place that sends you mad.
I’m guessing that the same is true of these four men?
I can come up with an excuse in my head, but I don’t think the fact that I feel I have to is a great indicator.
Also, Peter Serafinowicz shows up, despite being a four year old Englishman at the time.
(No, seriously, Prefect is a dead ringer, it’s bizarre.)
|Editor's note: It's true.|
Next they climb a mountain and solve the easiest riddle in the world (I’m guessing Caesar didn’t actually know what the riddle was and just assumed it was difficult?).
Then it’s surviving the night on the plain of departed spirits, which is haunted by the Roman version of those ghosts from The Lord of the Rings movies. (No, seriously, they’re basically identical.)
|Editor's note: IT'S TRUE.|
With the tasks completed, Rome bows to them and they return home.
I’d explain more, but I’m running out of my word count, so let’s just summarise whether or not this film is good.
Yes. It is.
It’s funny, well placed, and amusingly bizarre. If you can deal with those two short shots I mentioned at the beginning, I’d recommend it. (Or if you can find a version without them? Especially the first one. It’s up to you.)