“Asterix and Obelix: the Middle Empire”: the new film in the saga lacks bite

“Asterix and Ob&élix: The Middle Kingdom” film of the saga lacks bite


Eleven years after the release of the last film in the saga Asterix, actor and director Guillaume Canet is trying to relaunch the popular franchise by offering a new cinematic epic built around an original screenplay and a new cast of actors. If it succeeds in entertaining, its Asterix and Obelix: Middle Kingdom disappoints with its lack of madness and bite.

There is no more daunting project in France than making an Asterix film. The last filmmakers to have tried it (Laurent Tirard for Astérix and Obélix: in the service of Her Majesty, and Thomas Langmann and Frédéric Forestier for Asterix at the Olympic Games) broke their teeth there and never retouched the adventures of the irreducible Gauls thereafter.

In fact, since the release of the cult comedy Mission Cléopâtre, directed by Alain Chabat in 2002, no live-action Astérix has managed to win unanimous acclaim from the public and critics. 

Based on an original script (and therefore not adapted from an existing comic), Asterix and Obélix: The Middle Kingdom takes us back to the famous little Gallic village, in the year 50 BC. 

While the inhabitants of the village still resist the Roman invader, the Empress of China is imprisoned following a coup orchestrated by an enemy prince. Helped by a Phoenician merchant, Princess Fu-Yi, the Empress's only daughter, fled to Gaul to ask for help from the valiant Gallic warriors, endowed with superhuman strength thanks to their famous magic potion. The two friends Asterix and Obelix will not hesitate to dedicate themselves to go on an adventure in China, to help the princess free her mother.  

A new band

Let's put it bluntly: Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdomdoes not come close to Mission Cleopatra. This new opus directed by Guillaume Canet (Les petits mouchoirs) with a colossal budget (approximately $93 million) still has many qualities, including bringing the friendship between the characters of Asterix and Obelix to the fore. These are also interpreted with contagious pleasure by Canet and Gilles Lellouche, two good friends in life. Lellouche even manages to make us forget the great Depardieu, who had portrayed Obélix so well in the four previous films.

Canet also hit the nail on the head by entrusting the role of an emancipated Cleopatra to Marion Cotillard and that of a depressed Julius Caesar to Vincent Cassel. Nice winks also for having offered the character of Panoramix to Pierre Richard and that of the beautiful Falbala to the pop singer Angèle.

If he had the good idea to use Asterix to address some current topics and many of our time (feminism, veganism, etc.), Canet did not manage to build a plot that holds up for two hours. His film occasionally offers some effective gags and puns, but in wanting to please everyone, he concocted an Asterix that is far too nice. 

Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom ★★★★★

A film by Guillaume Canet
With Guillaume Canet, Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Cassel and Marion Cotillard. Featured.