(On DVD, March 2012) Luc Besson’s return to large-scale live-action fantasy after more than a decade’s absence promises more than it delivers. Oh, let’s be fair: The first fifteen minutes of Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec are completely enjoyable: The omniscient narration sets up a charming historical adventure with wit and humor, the fast-paced editing promises a zippy film and the heroine that is Adèle Blanc-Sec seems like a 1910s Lara Croft prototype, albeit funnier and more credible because of her occasional vulnerability. After that, alas, the film gets wildly uneven: Despite the big budget, the historical recreation, the sympathetic protagonist and the odd elements of fantasy thrown in pictures downtown Paris, Adèle Blanc-Sec is constantly undermined by its own script. The subplots don’t merge graciously (an artifact, I gather, of trying to adapt several of Blanc-Sec’s original comic books in one movie), the conclusion gets sillier and sillier, Besson can’t resist his politicians-and-policemen-are-idiots shtick, and every so often, it seems as if the colossal energy invested in the film is at the service of sub-par farce. The film has serious tone problems that make it hard to take seriously as an adventure. Some of the jokes work (I’m fond of the end Louvre/Pyramid gag), but more of them don’t. Too bad, especially given Louise Bourgoin’s charming performance in the complex lead role: Blanc-Sec has to kick ass, tell jokes, makes mistakes, wear disguises, suffer indignation and have some compassion for a paralyzed sister, and Bourgoin seems quite a bit better in doing those things than she script she serves. While the film still has enough of a visual and creative kick to earn a recommendation (especially for Besson fans), it doesn’t quite manage to be as good as it could have been. Besson has announced his wish to make sequels… we’ll see if the market demands it.