Give Astérix A Gritty Reboot
by Ka Bradley
Listen to me. Goscinny and Uderzo are dead now. They can’t lay a curse on you the way Alan Moore does with all the adaptations of all his films. French Netflix series are having what they call a moment: witness Lupin and Call My Agent. You can build on that momentum! And because it’s a gritty reboot, you won’t have to worry about getting all the visual speech bubble gags right, nor reproduce the sublime playfulness of the translations for which Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge deserved Man Bookers, Pulitzers, Nobels. Light it with teal gels against stark black backgrounds and made it pour with rain. You know I’m right. Give Astérix A Gritty Reboot.
Going back to that Alan Moore curse — did you know that the adaptation of The League of Gentlemen was such a disaster that Sean Connery never made another film? You won’t get that if you Give Astérix A Gritty Reboot. In fact, now I think of it, you should give the project to Zack Snyder. I know Alan Moore laid a curse on him and Watchmen was a hideous work of cinema, but he’s got such solid form, hasn’t he, with Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman. The big names. The big guns. The big, big muscles.
I’m writing tweets about it from anonymous accounts. I’m sending in notes made of cut-up newspapers to Warner Bros. I keep saying the same thing: Give Astérix A Gritty Reboot. We love to watch superpowered hominids smash one another into the bitumen. Astérix has a superhero-making potion. Just imagine how much that would totally rock in the DC Extended Universe.
I’m thinking about the 2009 film adaptation of Watchmen. It’s maybe what this column is actually about, the puppeteer behind the marionette shrieking Give Astérix A Gritty Reboot. There are scenes where Snyder recreates the original comic panel for panel, and yet he managed to make a film that expressed exactly the wrong intentions. Do you remember Rorschach? He wears a mask with a moving Rorschach blot and a trench coat and carries the atmosphere of a ‘40s noir around with him like a bad smell — which, incidentally, he also emits, because Rorschach canonically does not bathe or wash his clothes.
Give Astérix A Gritty Reboot. Astérix has short king appeal. You don’t need to do for Astérix what they were forced to do with Rorschach’s origin story. He’s a survivor of childhood abuse, afflicted with severe PTSD, and he is triggered — in the psychological sense of the world — while investigating the kidnapping of a six-year-old girl. In the graphic novel, he brings a cleaver down on the head of a dog while calling for his mother. In the film, he does not call for his mother. That stuff doesn’t sell tickets. He cleaves the head of a murderer, and he says, ‘Men gets arrested. Dogs get put down.’ He’s a sociopath with a tagline. We love to see it.
I’ve been meditating on this treatment of Rorschach that dispenses with the critique of his insistence that individual, entrepreneurial vigilante violence can address the root issues of society better than investment in communities, in people, in the ordinary. I’ve been thinking about the Dark Knight treatment Rorschach got in Watchmen. I’ve been thinking about how cool Snyder made him look, karate-kicking in the Antarctic and growling at a pitch to churn bowels.
Bearing this in mind, why don’t you Give Astérix A Gritty Reboot? Bin the storyline of collective resistance to oppression — the little Gaulish seaside village against the Roman Empire — and turn him into a sexy blond who slaps Classical-era Stormtroopers around. You cannot go wrong with this. We don’t like collective resistance anymore. We like the fist, going into the face, forever.
Consider this: they did a Rorschach on the Joker. They took what could have been an affecting examination of inequality and they gave it to Todd Phillips. And when Phillips made Joker in 2019, he made evil kind of shiny and general, and he made its resistance look nihilist, pained and, above all, weirdly boring. That lecture that the Joker gives on the talk show before he shoots the presenter in the head? It’s so tedious! It’s better as a meme than a scene. Think of the memes you could make with ‘These Romans are crazy!’ Give Astérix A Gritty Reboot. Forget that evil is in the heart of all men who allow others to struggle in bondage. Give Astérix A Gritty Reboot.