Asterix and Cleopatra Mission Cleopatra (2002) poster

Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (2002)


(Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatre)

France/Germany. 2002.


Director/Screenplay – Alain Chabat, Based on the Comic-Book by Rene Goscinny & Albert Uderzo, Photography – Laurent Dailland, Music – Philippe Chany, Visual Effects Supervisor – Thomas Duval, Visual Effects – Duboi (Supervisor 2D – Thierry Delobel, Supervisor 3D – Gael Seydoux), Special Effects Supervisors – Jean-Baptiste Bonetto, Yves Domenjoud & Olivier Gleyze, Production Design – At Hoang. Production Company – Katharina/Renn Productions/TFI Films Production/Chez Wam/GP Medien/Erste/Zweite et Vierte Beiteiligung/KC Medien AG & Co. KG Munich/Canal +/Centre National de la Cinematographique.


Christian Clavier (Asterix), Gerard Depardieu (Obelix), Jamel Debbouze (Edifis/Numerobis), Claude Rich (Getafix), Monica Bellucci (Cleopatra), Gerard Darmon (Amonbofis), Alain Chabat (Julius Caesar), Jean Benguigui (Malococsis), Bernard Farcy (Redbeard), Dieudonne (Caius Ceplus), Edouard Baer (Otis), Isabelle Nanty (Itineris), Edouard Montoute (Nexusis), Noemie Lenoir (Guimieukis)


In Egypt, Julius Caesar makes a boast to Cleopatra that Roman architecture is superior to Egyptian architecture. To prove him wrong, Cleopatra says that she will build a palace, which she will call Caesar’s Palace, within thirty days. To do this, she recruits the architect Edifis, threatening to feed him to the crocodiles if he does not succeed. The nervous Edifis believes the only way he can complete the task in time is with the aid of the rumoured magic potion of the Gauls. He travels to Gaul where he is found by Asterix and Obelix who persuade Getafix to travel to Egypt to aid Edifis. As they set about giving the Egyptian slaves samples of the potion, allowing them to carry heavy blocks of stone, Cleopatra’s official architect Amonbofis rankles that Edifis was chosen over him and determines to sabotage the building of the palace.

The Asterix comic-books enjoy an enormous international popularity. Asterix first appeared in the magazine Pilote in 1959 and the stories were released in the familiar large-sized book format beginning with Asterix the Gaul (1960). The series extends to 39 books to date – 24 of these come from co-creators Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, while Uderzo produced a further ten books on his own following Goscinny’s death in 1977 and there have been five from other writers following Uderzo’s retirement in 2011. The books are set in a tiny village in Gaul (as France used to be known during the Roman occupation). The villagers maintain a cheerful resistance to the Romans, which usually consist of Asterix and his large, slow-witted companion Obelix beating up as many centurions as they can, something they regard as a sport, where they have a natural advantage due to the druid Getafix’s creation of a magic potion that bestows great strength. Much of history and modern culture is spoofed in some often witty gags.

There have been numerous film adaptations of the Asterix comics over the years. The French animation company Dargaud made a series of animated films – Asterix the Gaul (1967), Asterix and Cleopatra (1968), The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976) – the latter two both being co-directed by Goscinny and Uderzo – Asterix Vs Caesar (1985), Asterix in Britain (1986) and Asterix and the Big Fight (1989). There have been several animated films from other companies with Asterix Conquers America (1994) and Asterix and the Vikings (2006) and more recently the CGI-animated Asterix: The Mansion of the Gods (2014) and Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion (2018).

In the late 1990s, there were also a series of live-action Asterix films, beginning with Asterix and Obelix vs Caesar (1999). This was the second of the live-action films and was followed by Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008) and Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia (2012). The common factor between all of these was Gerard Depardieu as Obelix. Asterix was played by Christian Clavier here and in the previous film, but has been portrayed by a different actor with each subsequent film.

Obelix (Gerard Depardieu), Asterix (Christian Clavier), Getafix (Claude Rich) and Edifis/Numerobis (Jamel Debbouze) in Asterix and Cleopatra Mission Cleopatra (2002)
(l to r) Obelix (Gerard Depardieu), Asterix (Christian Clavier), Getafix (Claude Rich) and Edifis/Numerobis (Jamel Debbouze)
Cleopatra (Monica Bellucci) and Julius Caesar (Alain Chabat) in Asterix and Cleopatra Mission Cleopatra (2002)
Cleopatra (Monica Bellucci) and Julius Caesar (Alain Chabat, also the film’s director/writer)

This version is directed and written by actor Alain Chabat, who also plays the role of Julius Caesar. Of all the live-action Asterix films, Chabat seems to get the visual nonsense of the comic-book down perfectly – the images of the Roman centurions flying through the air after being punched, the pirates sinking in their ship (or preferring to scuttle it). The film is surprisingly faithful to the Goscinny and Uderzo original Asterix and Cleopatra (1969) with Chabat’s script following the original comic-book on all points. It comes with a good many witty piece of nonsense – I particularly liked the Egyptian slaves who form a union to demand less whippings per hour.

The film is very much rooted in visual slapstick – elaborate scenes like where Obelix climbs the sphinx, knocks its nose off then just lifts it up to hide the nose underneath. Along with a few modern jokes like the playing of the Imperial March from Star Wars (1977) as Amonbofis moves into action, or having the Egyptians break into a dance routine to James Brown’s I Feel Good (1964), along with people Dancing the Egyptian and a ZZ Top-modelled set of musicians. The pirates afloat on debris from their ship is also modelled after the famous painting The Raft of the Medusa (1818-9) by French artist Théodore Géricault.

Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra apparently had the biggest budget of any French film made at the time ($47 million) – and it shows on screen with shooting in Morocco, including elaborate sets for the construction of the palace. Once again, Gerard Depardieu is perfectly cast as Obelix. Against him, Christian Clavier makes a perfect if a little chubby an Asterix. (Two films later, the role of Asterix would be played by Edouard Baer who plays the Edifis’s assistant Otis the elevator maker here).

Alain Chabat is mostly known as a comedy actor. However, he has also made a number of other films as director, almost all of which fall within genre confines, including Didier (1997), a comedy about a dog who turns into a man; the prehistoric comedy RRRrrrr!!! (2004); Houba! On the Trail of the Marsupilami (2012) based on a popular French comic-book; and the Christmas film Santa & Co (2017).

Trailer here

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