Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
Who are the Gauls (Gallics)? —They were a Celtic race living in ancient France, and part of Belgium, Germany and Italy.
Who are the Celts? —a collection of tribes (including Gaels, Gauls, Britons, Irish and Galatians) with a similar language and shared traditions, culture and religious beliefs, that covered much of Europe, Ireland, Britain, France and Spain
What is a Druid? —a member of the learned class among the ancient Celts, acting as priests, teachers, and judges
What is the Roman Empire?
What is the Occult? Answer
What does the Bible say about SORCERY? Answer
What is “blasphemy”? Answer
Ken Kramer … Asterix (voice in English version)
Christian Clavier … Astérix (voice in French version)
Bernard Alane … Getafix (Panoramix) (voice)
C. Ernst Harth … Obélix (Obelix) (voice in English version)
Guillaume Briat … Obélix (Obelix) (voice in French version)
Alex Lutz … Teleferix (voice)
Alexandre Astier … Oursenplus / Huiledolix / Blodimérix (Somniferus) (voice)
Elie Semoun … Cubitus (Marcus Ubiquitus) (voice)
Daniel Mesguich … Sulfurix (voice)
François Morel … Ordralfabétix (Unhygienix) (voice)
Lionnel Astier … Cetautomatix (Cétautomatix / Fulliautomatix))(voice)
Florence Foresti … Bonemine (Impedimenta) (voice)
Ethan Astier … Loustix (voice)
Dominique Bastien … Bazunix / Caustix (voice)
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M6 Studio [France]
M6 Films [France]
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Icon Film Distribution
Note: This review refers to the English-speaking version, with slightly different character names compared to the original French version.
Picture beautiful ancient forests and countryside, wild boars roasting, lots of drunks singing, foreign soldiers to beat up just for fun, villagers brawling, and a friendly pagan priest named Getafix who creates potions for super-human strength… the comic book series that I loved laughing over as a child now doesn’t seem so innocent.
Seeing it on the big screen with kids and teens in mind, I suddenly realize it’s far from being healthy fun.
For those unfamiliar with the tiny clear-thinking hero named Astérix and his large menhir-mining friend Obélix, let me explain. In these comics, much-loved worldwide since the 1970s, each story revolves around the small but determined village of Gauls who are the only natives still holding out against the Roman Empire. The Secret Potion made by their local druid Getafix is the key to their success, and Obélix fell into a cauldron of the stuff during his childhood, while everyone else is reliant on a fresh supply of the soup.
In this new film, the difficulty is that the elderly druid is starting to make mistakes and feel his age. Can a worthy replacement be found to entrust with the precious recipe? Viewers tour the region with the ‘heroes’ in order to discover what it takes to be a fine druid and whether Demonix—Getafix’s old rival who has strayed into use of dark magic—will be able to intercept the recipe and sell its secret to Rome, thus dooming the village.
At face value, “Asterix” definitely appeals to young boys with its exaggerated punch-ups, cheeky humor and a male-only talent quest. It will also bring some pleasant nostalgia to older viewers who grew up with their noses stuck in Asterix comics. There is plenty of picturesque scenery, action, suspense and a plot twist or two. And one could argue that the violence is ridiculous enough for teens to not imitate it.
The other key strength of the story is the sense of loyalty and affection amongst Asterix’s townmates, though they bicker and fight at times. One or two positive messages play minor roles, such as “It’s time I face my responsibilities,” and, “I cannot strike a woman.”
My favorite feature from the books, also shown here, is the cleverness of character names that reflect something about the owner’s personality. For example, Magnetix for a metal-manipulating druid, Geriatrix for an old man and Unhygienix for a fishmonger.
In terms of soundtrack, artistry, lighting and timing, “Asterix” is brilliantly constructed. Does it faithfully represent the books? Yes, it does rather well, with a few minor changes seemingly for political correctness and cultural sensitivities. For example, creators minimized the womanizing found in the books, and women’s outfits are generally more modest. Careful preparation has clearly gone into ensuring that “Asterix” will be appreciated by a vast audience.
Sadly, there are also many clear downsides to this film.
As in all the “Asterix” stories, gleeful over-consumption of alcohol is a key issue. Wine is even given to a child. There are more than 3 heavy-drinking parties and some red noses suggest inebriation. And, of course, excessive drinking leads to brawling and all manner of insults. As Proverbs rightly cautions:
But the most obvious issue is celebration of violence, closely linked with most characters’ fiery tempers and pride. Frequent melees involve all the townsfolk, even women and children, slapping one another with smelly fish and whatever else they can lay their hands on. A main ‘hero’ thumps his fist down on enemies’ heads, knocking them into concussion, while another routinely uppercuts them into the sky. The village children copy their parents’ behavior, and this includes marching like troops, and a classroom brawl with weapons. Blacksmiths’ mallets, swords, daggers, fists, chaining, sickles, a large deliberately-lit arson fire, catapulted boulders and spells are just a few of the other weapons used by children and adults. There is a serious murder attempt using a nasty blade, followed by a consolation prize of a poke in the eye. Tantrums and shouting matches are also frequent. And not only does a lot of violence occur: it is cherished. One of Obélix’s favorite pastimes is pommeling Romans, and his best mate turns to him to say, “All those Romans are yours. Enjoy.” Another time Obélix says, “Shouldn’t we bash them while they’re down?”
The Bible, in contrast, says:
“Do not envy the violent, or choose any of their ways.” —Proverbs 3:31 NIV
Another form of violence in “Asterix” is the rough language: “shut it,” “shut up” (2x); “you ignorant fool,” “you treacherous imp,” “big tub of lard,” “blasted,” “the Roman scum,” “Don’t ruin everything by trying to be honest” (after which the addressee looks ashamed), shouting arguments, and “You can also use [a sickle] to mince up a blacksmith’s ears.”
Nudity occurs twice: Julius Caesar discusses political issues while in the bathtub, then stands up allowing full visibility to just below the belly-button; and later Asterix is briefly without clothes (rear) when released from captivity. One woman has a revealing neckline and leans toward the audience.
Gender roles are occasionally debated. A young girl is forbidden from many activities due to her gender, so she pretends to be a boy by changing her voice, hair and tucking her skirt up as trousers. This is encouraged by the adults, for the purposes of the mission, not with any broader intention.
Pagan profanities also occur: “O divine Caesar.” “By Jupiter.” “By Toutatis” (2), “What in the name of Toutatis” (a false god that received human sacrifices), “I swear in the name of Belenos,” and “gods!” Also, a mosaic of the story of Mars, the god of war, forms part of a druid’s magic show.
Occult references include cherished cairns (perhaps for honoring the dead or with an astrological link) in a druid’s garden and outside a druids’ gathering spot; superstition in hooves pinned to a coat; potion-making in a cauldron; mistletoe (from pagan sacrifices); fear of the full moon; and an event is to occur “upon the next lunar alignment.”
Drug references include a concealed powder that goes into the secret potion, and the secret potion itself being a highly sought-after golden elixir for physical powers. Also, there is a super-growth potion made and drunk. Another potion enables soldiers to fly like superheroes. Other potions are experimented with, producing multiple explosions and negative side effects.
The villain is named Demonix and wears an antlered deer skull atop his head and a bearskin on his back; carries ‘flame powder’ which he uses to frighten people and cast spells; looms tall and threatening over other characters; insults older men about their age; uses “forbidden magic” to freeze a druid solid into a ‘cup holder,’ and later with his punch twice freezes a beloved character in levitation (as though dead). His personality includes a biting ‘accuser’ role (like Satan who is known as The Accuser). He dances with glee as he burns down a special place, and several times gives a large evil laugh. Eventually, he transforms into a giant lava-monster in a painful process, and roars and fires missiles as if from canons.
Other content that may be problematic for some viewers includes shock blasts, a tidal wave, fat jokes, fart noises, a terrified animal caught in a thunderstorm, falling from heights, narrow avoidance of a cute animal getting squashed, meat cleavers, pirates, a joke about meditation, a pitchfork thrown at a baby boar, chickens having their legs pulled—then being shot at while flying, a dog is hung by just his ears—whining, a smelly cowpat, scores of people lying injured after battles, a child is put under huge pressure to complete a task perfectly, and one Gaul is named ClimateSkeptix.
Last, but certainly not least, is the main reason I do not recommend the film “Asterix”: its disrespect to Jesus and His Father. One of the druid wannabes is seen seated in front of a hillside of peacefully grazing sheep, and he looks exactly like Catholic religious icons of Jesus Christ. Not only that, his ‘special skill’ is multiplying loaves of bread. Others refer to him dismissively as “this guy and his buns.” He himself says, “This parlor trick with the loaves…” Then we see an obvious impostor trying to look like a prophet such as Moses on a mountaintop hearing from gods about the wonders of a different druid. This involves a burst of light, a windstorm, flowing robes and onlookers exclaiming, “Gods!”
Another huge negative is the discussion of magic as though it is light and good except when used by the villain. This will be addressed in the next section.
Given that most of the storyline focuses on the quest for a druidic successor, it follows that this film spends much time exploring magic. The magic is presented as a neutral force that can be used for good or evil. The experienced druids are introduced as “scientists and philosophers.” The druid Getafix states, “Druids are meant to prove that magic is real.” They try to do this in a variety of ways, from simple sleight of hand, dance and even a witch-doctor approach. Their potions and tricks are always presented positively and as innocent. Getafix appears to be looking for someone whose magic is real as well as having real character.
But Biblically, magic is not neutral or good. There is no such thing as a distinction between ‘white magic’ and ‘black magic.’ The book of Revelation condemns magic arts 4 times, and this perspective is consistent throughout the whole of Scripture. People are encouraged to seek their help in God, not witchcraft, potions or spells, because some of that ‘magic’ occurs by the power of demons and even innocent illusionist magic can prompt serious confusion about spiritual matters. Even though the writers and producers of a cartoon can portray magic in a way that seems positive, we know that in real life it is not something to be toyed with or pursued.
Yet in “Asterix,” the noble Getafix seems to love spells that create beauty and happiness. Getafix the druid is portrayed as a jolly, pure and wise character who can do no wrong. Though the other experienced druids (all also in white robes and beards) display some questionable behavior, he does not. He is ‘blessed’ with perfect health for “all these years” while practicing his occupation. He also seems to see the inner motives of a person and always has enlightening answers. And though this is not taken so far as to make Getafix seem divine, he does often appear angelic. This makes me very uncomfortable, because Satan would love for our next generation to see practicers of magic as pleasant and powerful beings who are preferable to the true God who will judge us all. As an apostle warns:
“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” —2 Corinthians 11:14-15 NIV
So, as we consider this film, let us all remember that we must be on guard against deceptions, presentation of evil as though it is good, and deriving our enjoyment from practices that the Lord calls evil.
While I expected some of the issues I have mentioned above and was pleasantly surprised by a range of positive factors, overall this is not a safe film to take children or teenagers to. My reason for discouraging viewing is primarily due to the irreverence against Jesus and the ‘voice from Heaven,’ along with heavy delight in violence and confusing messages about the nature of good and evil.
Even mature Christian adults should hesitate before attending. If all immoral content was to be removed from the film—or any of the “Asterix” comic books—there would be almost nothing left. As Christians, we need to consider wisely how we invest our time and money in a way that edifies and reflects God’s character. This extends to what we watch and listen to, as it is easy for us to become desensitized to violence, sex, witchcraft, etc. in commercial films. If this is something that you find yourself identifying with, my hope and prayer is that God may increase in you a desire to seek what is good as He is good.
Learn about DISCERNMENT—wisdom in making personal entertainment decisions
“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” —1 Timothy 1:13-14 NIV
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” —Ephesians 4:30-32 NIV
“Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish.” —Jonah 3:8-9
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.