“Soon I’ll be the new emperor of China,” Caesar swears to impress his belligerent Cleopatra. But he’s not the only one who wants to move to the Middle Kingdom. Asterix and Obelix are also drawn there to free the mother of a pretty princess – and get involved in one or two fights in the process.
It is the first Asterix film in eleven years, which will be released in cinemas in France on Wednesday and in Germany in May. “Asterix in the Middle Kingdom” has a top-class cast, and not just with actors. Filmmaker Guillaume Canet, known for the tragic comedy Little True Lies, plays Asterix himself, who suddenly becomes more interested in salads than roast wild boar, to the dismay of Obelix. Canet’s partner Marion Cotillard has taken on the role of Cleopatra, who was annoyed by Caesar.
Gilles Lellouche, who, in contrast to his predecessor in the role, Gérard Depardieu, needed significantly more theatrical fat, is wearing the blue-striped Obelix pants. The cast list also includes soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the role of the Roman soldier Antivirux, rapper Orelsan and Belgian singer Angèle – probably also an attempt to attract younger viewers to the cinema.
Actually, parts of the film should have been shot in China. But the Covid pandemic and Chinese attempts at censorship prevented this. “The Chinese wanted to control everything. They didn’t like that China should be conquered by Caesar’s soldiers, even if this is a comedy,” said producer Alain Attal in a 2021 interview.
Jokes about pandas weren’t welcome either, said director Canet, who traveled to China in November 2019 in tow of President Emmanuel Macron. The Himalayan scenes were finally shot in the French low mountain range Auvergne – where the landscape is not quite as spectacular, but the logistical effort was much less.
Like the magic potion, an Asterix movie has some essential ingredients: wild boar meals, capsized pirate boats, fist-bumped Romans. A certain challenge was that the Gallic beating heroes suddenly had to compete with unfamiliar Asian martial arts.
In contrast to the four previous Asterix films, “Asterix in the Middle Kingdom” is not based on a comic book. But similar to earlier films, there are always references to modern times, such as carrier pigeons that make SMS bells or historic vehicles that are reminiscent of the legendary Citroën ducks.
The French cinema industry, suffering from the consequences of the corona pandemic and the success of streaming services, is hoping for a new blockbuster. The 2002 film “Mission Cleopatra” with Depardieu as Obelix attracted 14 million people to the cinemas.
The new Asterix film is said to have been sold in numerous countries. Only China has apparently not shown any interest in the recent adventures of the scrappy little Gaul and his portly friend. (AFP)
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