(Asterix: Le Secret de la Potion Magique)
Directors/Screenplay – Alexandre Astier & Louis Clichy, Producer – Philippe Bony, Photography/Visual Effects Supervisor – David Dulac, Music – Philippe Rombi, Animation Directors – Jerome Charton & Coline Veith, Production Design – Alexandra De Broca. Production Company – M6 Films/Mikros Image/Les Editions Alert Rene/Canal+/OCS/M6/W9.
Asterix and Obelix come across the druid Getafix having fallen from a tree. Because druids are meant to have great command over nature, Getafix falls into a depression over this. Getafix then decides that he needs to find a successor. As druids are supposed to commit their spells to memory, not write them down, Getafix decides will need to teach then the spell for the magic potion. Asterix and Obelix accompany Getafix as he sets out on his quest. At the same time, they encounter Demonix, Getafix’s long-time rival who went over to the dark side. Demonix approaches the novice druid Cholerix and teaches him what he needs to fool Getafix and be selected in order to get the secret of the magic potion.
This is one of several films based on the popular French Asterix comic-books by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. From their first appearance in 1959, the Asterix comic-books run to 36 books, the first 24 from Goscinny and Uderzo, a subsequent ten from Uderzo following Goscinny’s death in 1977 and a further four produced by other artists and writers after Uderzo sold the copyright in 2009. The Asterix comic-books concern a village of oddball characters in Gaul (modern-day France) in the first century A.D. who stand up against the Roman occupation with the aid of a magic potion that gives them super-strength.
The Belgian animation company Dargaud Films made several Asterix films with Asterix the Gaul (1967), Asterix Vs Caesar (1985), Asterix in Britain (1986) and Asterix and the Big Fight (1989). With Asterix and Cleopatra (1968) and The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976), Goscinny and Uderzo even signed on as co-directors. There were also a series of live-action Asterix films starring Gerard Depardieu as Obelix and various actors as Asterix with Asterix and Obelix vs Caesar (1999), Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra (2002), Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008) and Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia (2012). (Christian Clavier who played Asterix in the first two live-action films returns to voice the role of Asterix in the French-language version of the film).
From the 1990s, the French company M6 Studio have also made several animated Asterix films with Asterix Conquers America (1994) and Asterix and the Vikings (2006). Directors Alexandre Astier and Louis Clichy had previously worked for M6 on the CGI animated Asterix: The Mansion of the Gods (2014), which was one of the better of the Asterix films. The Secret of the Magic Potion is their follow-up to this and is also CGI animated.
Other than The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, which was written directly for the screen by Goscinny and Uderzo, Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion was the first of any of the Asterix films to have a story that is not adapted from one of the comic-books. In that it is an original work written for the screen, The Secret of the Magic Potion also feels a very variant story to any of the canonical Goscinny and Uderzo works. Asterix, Obelix, Dogmatix, Chief Vitalstatistix and Cacofinix the bard are all present. The plot is focused around Getafix the druid searching for a replacement and he, Asterix and Obelix conducting a search among novice druids (most of whom are ineptly comic screw-ups).
The film gives over more to Getafix’s background than we have ever had in all of the Goscinny and Uderzo’s strips put together where we learn that he is regarded as the most respected of all druids. The film also goes out on a limb and introduces a shadow counterpart of Getafix in Demonix who has gone over to the dark side and is actively conspiring to steal the potion. Already this feels like it is radically changing (or expanding) the character beyond what it was on the comic-book page. The plot’s focus on Getafix’s background and Demonix training an impostor essentially turns Asterix and Obelix into supporting characters.
The film takes place with the usual gonzo knockabout humour familiar to the comic-books and films. All of that said, Astier and Clichy deliver nothing particularly amusing and original. The most ridiculous scene in the whole film – and the one that killed it for me – is the climactic one where they face a giant-sized Demonix and Asterix goes into action against him by piloting a giant Transformer made up of centurion shields. It is a silly modernist gag that you would never have found in the Goscinny and Uderzo originals and feels like a betrayal of the comic-books.