Asterix and the Mansion of the Gods review: Captures the irreverent spirit of the books

Asterix and the Mansion of the Gods review: Captures the irreverent spirit of the books

Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

'The year is 50 BC. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely... One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders. And life is not easy for the Roman legionaries who garrison the fortified camps of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium...'

Does this sound familiar? That's because that's the introduction text to every single Asterix comic.

And for many of us, the comic series still is an integral part of our bookshelves. And who can blame us? The French comics had great stories, writing and illustrations; and poked fun at real life practices like capitalism and the importance of civilisation.

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In all there have been 36 delightful books, with the series first appearing in the French magazine Pilote in 1959, written by Rene Goscinny (until his death in 1977) and illustrated by Albert Uderzo until 2009, when he sold the rights to the series to Hachette.

The last Gallic toon The Mansion of the Gods (in 3D) - produced and created in France and written and directed by Louis Clichy and Alexandre Astier - is based off of the 17th volume of the comic series. Caesar, tired of the endless defeats at the hands of the Gauls, decides that, in order to finally take over Asterix's village, he will commission gigantic Roman apartment buildings designed by the great architect Squaronthehypotenus.

Oh, and culturally assimilate the Gauls in order to finally conquer their village.

After a brief bit of magical resistance, Squaronthehypotenus threatens to work the slaves (the almost luckless pirates from previous adventures) to death in order to clear the forest, which Asterix takes literally and he sneaks some of the Gauls' magic potion to them.

The slaves however, in a commentary or European labour unions, use their collective newfound strength to bargain for better terms and the colony is soon built and thriving.

The Gauls of the village (other than Asterix and Obelix) are soon drawn to the profits to be had in the Mansion of the Gods, leaving the village ripe for the razing, leaving only the two of them to try and stop the Roman Legions from destroying their home.

For longtime fans, all of your favourite characters are there: Asterix, Obelix, Dogmatix, Getafix and Cacofanix.

Capturing the spirit of the comics

The Mansion of the Gods perfectly encapsulates what Asterix is really all about, and properly represents the heights of farce and satire the series has always strived for.

It's less about the beating up of Romans and more about depicting the foibles of everyday life through the absurd lens of this milieu. This is ultimately a story about gentrification, about a group of simple folk who get caught up in the trappings of luxury and end up in trouble because of it.

On the other side are oblivious city dwellers discovering for the first time that there is life beyond Rome.

Asterix comics have never fared particularly well on screen. Previous attempts to make animated versions of the characters have largely been hindered by technical limitations.

This is perhaps the best film interpretation of the comics ever made, capturing not only the pacing and style of Asterix, but also the humour.

The verdict

The film finds a nice mix between comedic antics and outright social commentary.

It captures the staunchly irreverent spirit of the books, with the movie giving much of its focus to the overall buffoonery of the residents of its absurd version of history.

Old, young, whatever age: everyone should watch this one.

RATING: 3 out of 5

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Aleesha Matharu

Aleesha Matharu @almatharu