Review: Asterix and the Vikings

asterix dvdThe highly successful Franco-Belgian comic book hero takes to the seas to rescue a young man, in this 14th animated feature about the proud Gauls in historical Northern France.

Most Europeans know the two characters Asterix and Obelix, the heroes of the beloved comic written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo. Created in 1959, the series follows the exploits of a village of indomitable Gauls as they resist Roman occupation. 36 books have been published until now, taking the format of stand-alone graphic novels. More than a dozen movies have been made from the stories, both animated and live action. Asterix and the Vikings is the 14th movie in the franchise, depending on wether you count unreleased movies or not. Based on Asterix and the Normans from 1966, the film takes some liberties with the story and adds both events and characters, but let’s look at the movie on its own feet.

Though not a straight Viking movie, of course, Vikings are included to a large extent, with large portions of the story taking place in Norway, in the icy fjords where the Vikings have built their cabins. The reason for travelling there was to retrive the son of chief Vitalstatistix, the sensitive and artistic Justforkix, who was kidnapped by the Vikings after having raided an empty village. Howver, Justforkix has fallen in love with the Viking king’s daughter Abba.

The story is quite straight forward, and somewhat on the thin side, but in a movie like this, originality is perhaps not the most important criteria. Familiar characters, fun gags, jokes, traditional scenes like boar eating and nicely drawn images go a long way, and on those accounts this movie delivers. I’m no Asterix purist, and found the artwork to be entertaining in itself, both in terms of details, colours and similarity to the comics. The humour is quite juvenile and may not appeal to adults, especially when it become a little repetitive, but there is a fine balance between character moments, laughs and action. The film is never boring, although it is more the sum of all the parts than specific moments that keeps the movie’s head above water.

asterix characters

One major thread in the movie, which at the same time is the film’s major weakness, is the gender politics projected through the two young lovers, Abba and Justforkix. The girl hates being a girl and wants the advantages of men, while Justforkix has no interest in war and bravery. The idea seems to be to have two characters that break free from the traditional male and female mould. The only problem is; they are both big-mouthed winers who, when it comes down to living the way they talk, manage nothing. For example, one would think that Abba is going to be a nice role model for little girls who want to grow up and choose their own path, but in reality in the movie, Abba is still captured by men, put in a cage by men and later rescued by a man. She does not act her part, one could say. The same goes for Justforkix. It’s a nice idea to promote gender empowerment to child viewers, but in effect, there is nothing here that supports that idea.

This flaw is quite hard to overlook. It’s much easier to forget the fact that the Asterix stories takes place several hundred years before the first traditional Vikings came to be; the earliest recorded raids by Norse seafarers took place nearly 750 years later than the times of Asterix. Never mind that, the comic book and this movie are fantasies anyway.

Asterix and the Vikings is decent entertainment but it does feel a little uninspired, with some repeated gags and predictable jokes. Maybe that’s not a surprise when you have more than a dozen movies to live up to and respect, and maybe it will be better received by children or the fan crowd than Viking fans.

Rated 6 of 10.

Directed by Stefan Fjeldmark & Jesper Møller.

France & Denmark, 2006.