In Luc Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, the viewer, like its hapless Inspector Albert Caponi (Gilles Lelouche), must get to the bottom of a crazy plot involving a resurrected pterodactyl, a mad scientist (Jacky Nercessian), Egyptian mummies, and of course the plucky adventuress of the title (Louise Bourgoin). Yet the connections between these different elements are gradually revealed to be pure, inconsequential whimsy, all rooted in an improbable tennis-court incident.
Drawn from the comicbooks of Jacques Tardi, roving novelist-cum-journalist Adele Blanc-Sec falls between the unstoppable curiosity of Tintin, the grave-robbing retro-adventurism of Indiana Jones, and the wide-eyed, haute-coutured feyness of Amelie. Her feistiness, her independence, and her refusal to respect any (masculine) authority might make Blanc-Sec something of a feminist icon avant la lettre, but the unhappy obverse of her dominance in the film is an army of thinly-drawn, largely supine males in her orbit - including Blanc-Sec's anodyne admirer (Nicolas Giraud), her arch nemesis (Mathieu Amalric, unrecognisable and wasted), a lecherous President (Gerard Chaillou), a big game hunter (Jean-Paul Rouve), and, of course, the clueless Caponi.
Perhaps this is just payback for all the weak female characters decorating the background of so many other action/adventure films, but these men are never engaging enough to carry the film's dizzying multitude of subplots, and are painted too broadly, indeed too cartoonishly, to offer the film the kind of sophistication to which it at times seems to be aspiring. So by all means savour the pretty pictures, the immaculate costumes, the lavishly reconstructed Belle Epoque Paris - but by the time the 'titanic' ending points towards a sequel (in keeping with the serial nature of the film's source), most viewers will probably feel that they have already had enough of Mlle Blanc-Sec and her quirky escapades.