Luc Besson's steampunk movie

Here's the latest trailer for Luc Besson's forthcoming steampunk movie, "Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adele Blanc-Sec." That's some heady stuff.

Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adele Blanc-Sec - 2nd teaser (Thanks, Xeni!)


    1. I read lots of franco-belgian comics, and I always find myself confused by the term “graphic novel”. In French there’s only the term “bande dessinée” used to designate the art and medium of drawn narratives. Why seperate comic books from graphic novels? Don’t they represent the same art? Why not simply call it comics? Just curious, because I often see this kind of underlined differentiation between the two.

      @ everybody aware of Tardi’s work: I didn’t know Tardi was also popular with non-francophone audiences… pretty cool..

      Luc Besson making a movie based on a Tardi comic? Wow!

      1. I’ve wondered about the need to differentiate graphic novels from comics as well. I’ve felt it was because comics weren’t respected enough, and someone felt the need to put graphic novels above them. However, we do the same thing with “books” and “novels”. Graphic novels are comics, but not all comics are graphic novels. Just like the term “novel”, it conveys a more specific idea.

        I’ve rarely heard someone call a truck a car, but it technically is one. When someone says they own a truck, I have a much more accurate image in my head than if they merely say they own a car.

        But yeah, the term “graphic novel” does have an air of pretentiousness since most other types of comics aren’t afraid to include the word “comic” in their label.

  1. So, umm, what makes this steampunk exactly? Looks like a monster movie to me. Is anything set in the 19th century now steampunk? Or is it only movies whose trailers make use of a steam locomotive sound effect?

    1. This inspires Boing Boing commenters to make affronted, pedantic, nit-picky remarks. Therefore it is steampunk.


      1. Since pedantry is encouraged, nay, vital:

        1) Um, as one other commenter noted: the protagonist’s name is Adèle, not Adele. (It’s Alt-138, if Ubuntu still allows BIOS Alt-key combinations.)

        2) Unlike The Practice Which Is So Common, Perhaps Even Overused In English, When You’re Writing In French (Even Just Copy’N’Pasting), You Don’t Capitalize Every Word In A Sentence. Even When It’s A Headline. SMALLCAPS ARE OK, HOWEVER BOINGBOING’S COMMENT SECTIONS DON’T SUPPORT THE “small” TAG.

        failix: Yes, “bande dessinée” or bédé or BD. There’s a subtle distinction between it and “bandes dessinnées“, the former is the art, the latter is the medium.
        There’s also “journal illustré” and “petit format” <- which is closest to what is called a comic book in North America. My work here is done. Now striving to work "phylactère" into everyday conversation.

  2. Steampunk? Are we using that term for anything at all Victorian, or were the guys at the end talking about getting some really good coal for the Babbage Engine so maybe it could translate the runes on the Stargate and help find and answer to why the Egyptology department is coming alive.

  3. Uh…exactly what definition do you two commenters propose to use for “steampunk”? The most commonly accepted one boils down to “Victorian-themed speculative fiction”. Which this is, in spades.

  4. Actually, the Adele Blanc-Sec stories are set in the Edwardian era, not the Victorian era. (Think 1907, not 1887.) They’re good stories. Lots of Edwardian hijinks mixed with criminal mysteries and the occult.

    “Steampunk” may be a _bit_ off (a couple of Steampunk details were visible in the trailer), but these stories are covered in the Steampunk sub-genre of Gaslight Romance (the fantasy emphasis is what tips it in that direction).

    Thus, Cory is still technically correct, which is the best kind of correct.

  5. Well, in the original comic, she skips WWI while cryogenically asleep. That makes at least the comic a solid candidate for steampunk.

  6. I have three words for your, M_G and Zadaz: (1) Steampunk. (2) Steampunk! (3) steamPUNK! Get it? Got it? Good.

  7. Steampunk? not Steampunk?

    Who gives a crap, Besson is making something that’s not a shitty sequel for a change. There’s actually a fair chance it’ll be awesome.

  8. The trailer is awesome!
    For me it looks like steam punk because of the colors used (at least in the trailer), the clothing, the little things there also (the glasses, the gun and so on). I like those kind of fantasy/fiction much better than the far future suited ones, the future can be anything, but for the past to looks fantastic you have to be very precise because people tend to know what past is like, which makes it difficult for the artist to break those boundaries and introduce us to the magic.
    I can’f wait for the movie to appear (good thing I know french so will not have to wait for the english translation, hah)

  9. Wrong headline, not Luc Besson’s steampunk movie but Tardi’s great tales film-O-tized.

  10. Meh.
    Tardi’s stuff is awesome. Besson’s, these days usually not so much.
    I fear for that poor Adèle. I highly suspect sir Besson will end up whoring her out to a fashion/mania that’s not even a fourth of her age.

    Ah well.

  11. The nitpicking of the term steampunk aside, I love retro style science fiction and fantasy stories. Everything from the retro future of the 1930s to the realm of the occult and the out of this world set in the past. Even when things are in a completely new dimension of reality but still hold that nice visual combination of shining metal mixed with puffs of steam and the grain of wood. The functionality of future science mixed with the old world artistry of the Victorian and Edwardian. Kind of like a big powerful robot with lasers that runs on coal and has a crown molding and art nouveau designs etched into the metal.

    Steampunk and it’s sub-catagories are ill-defined at best, since the term can be used to describe a visual style, not just the universe that it exists in. Let us just say that the world of Adele Blanc-Sec come very close to the some Vernian concepts and leave it at that.

    Also, Berk, Besson has worked on very few sequels in his time and most of the those he was only working on as a writer or producer. Most of the movies he has worked on during his rather long career are stand-alone titles, many of which are downright brilliant. I have no doubt that this will be at the very least entertaining and at the most amazing.

  12. So I guess this finally puts to rest Luc Besson’s long-standing vow that he would never direct another movie, declaring that “Arthur and the Invisibles” was the climax of his career and that he’d just produce from now on. Oh, Luc.

    In any case, I look forward to seeing more than just rapidfire jump-cuts of this.

  13. @failix: I think you have to blame DC and Marvel for that. Nowadays, for most people in the English speaking world, “comics”=drawn superheroes stories. And most of this stuff is mostly childish/boring/way too nerdy/incoherently written/appealing only to male teenagers/etc… You have good stuff in this category, and some characters are really interesting, but the quantity of mediocre stuff is overwhelming. The franchise system is boring, authors keep recycling the same characters (even minors one), the general settling is incoherent…

    Therefore, everything with not-too-childish scenarios, somewhat-realistic-or-complex characters, interesting universe and/or original art are labelled “graphic novel”. Because comics are for fanboys and kids.

    Franc-Belgian don’t have this problem because Bande-dessinée has (nearly) won its status of “serious” narrative technique (from the 70s-80s). But you have plenty of crappy stuffs too. The equivalent of the “superheroes comics” niche would be “endless heroic fantasy saga with big breasted females characters”, along with loads of “awful TV show adaptations”, “badly drawn clichés jokes series” (ex: on blondes or high school teachers), and “bad continuation of golden age series, even if the original authors are dead” (ex: Lucky Luke, Asterix (Uderzo is really a poor writer))

  14. it is steampunk because just calling this the new luc besson movie would sound just not cool enough … who would care about a luc besson period / dragon movie placed in either edwardian or victorian france?
    but hey if it is steampunk then it is good. … btw i didn’t see any steampunk craziness in that preview.

    1. Gotta agree. Period science fantasy, sure. But I don’t see anything in the trailer which is developed beyond the actual science of the day, modulo the nonhuman critters.

      Of course marketing categories exist primarily for marketing rather than being an accurate depiction of the truth, and “reality is fractal” as Keshlam keeps saying so there aren’t sharp lines… but from what I’ve seen in the trailer, calling this steampunk is like calling Clan of the Cave Bear science fiction. Sharing a milieu does not a genre make; it’s what you do with those ingredients and what you add to them.

      Looks like it might be a lot of fun, in the classic Lost World/King Cong creature-feature style, which is the important thing.

  15. So if accuracy (not pedantry) is the order of the day how about not labeling anything from France “Victorian” or “Edwardian”?

  16. Come on folks, don’t expect Cory to ever backtrack on calling this flick “steampunk.” It took Ursula Le Guin calling in “the sharks” from the land of legal to make him backtrack;)

  17. Is Tardi steam punk? I never thought of it that way. He IS a fin-de-siecle enthusiast, though, the century in question not being the 20th. :-) I suppose I’d call Adele and his other comics set in that period steampunk-ISH, not steampunk steampunk, if I were to say-so. But Luc Besson making that film sure is an interesting propostion :-)

  18. I would have to agree with some people that this isnt steampunk. It’s definition is an alternative history centering around mechanical and steam technology, with victorian elements. The movie, while victorian, looks more like a fictitious period movie.

    But all of this complaining over semantics is rather idiotic. The movie itself looks really interesting and would absolutely love to have the opportunity to check it out when available here in the US.

  19. The movie itself looks really interesting and would absolutely love to have the opportunity to check it out when available here in the US.

    There is never a guarantee that French movies will come to the US. The imdb page doesn’t have a release date for any English speaking countries.

  20. It pains me to admit that the only Luc Besson movie I’ve seen is Fifth Element.

    It is because of Fifth Element that I hope it’s released here in the U.S. :-D

  21. My pedantic contribution:

    “Belle époque” would be more accurate than “edwardian” for a story that takes place in France.

  22. You have to admit the pedantry discussion is more interesting than the trailer’s discussion.

    My complaint above about calling it “steampunk” has nothing to do with a dislike of steampunk. Quite the opposite, it’s a genre near and dear to my heart. But if you call everything Steampunk then nothing is Steampunk. This is quite clearly period fantasy. Calling it Steampunk devalues the word and turns it into a cheap adjective like “Awesome!”

  23. This guy, Luc Besson, doesn’t have a dictionary. Else he would understand the meaning of the word “retire”.

    Straight from the year 2006:

    “Luc Besson, director of the “The Professional” and “The Fifth Element,” announced his retirement from film industry and intends to work in civic projects in France.

    Besson’s 10th and last movie, “Arthur et les Minimoys,” opens in France on Dec. 13.”

    And there you are.

  24. I think a valid argument can be made for wanting a specific definition of terms. Lately I have noticed a trend to play fast and loose with definitions of words and terms to the point that having simple conversation with people is becoming a major chore because no one has a clue what definition the other party is using when they toss a word out. Some words have been assigned a wrong definition for so long that for all practical purposes they now have a new meaning.

    Is steampunk any SF set in a Victorian setting? Do we retro HG Wells as steampunk, or would 20,000 Leagues be considered SP and War of the Worlds not? Or is steampunk a specific branch of alternate history SF that springs from the invention of the Difference Engine? Is the term time specific? Does Steampunk begin with a certain novel or literary work, similar to the way some film historians like to date “Film noir”, where films before and after a cut off date might be reminiscent, but not strictly considered a part of the genre? I don’t consider the argument as nit-picky as the difference between say a costumed crime fighter and a superhero, but even that could be argued by someone, and they’d have a valid point.

    I only ask because I don’t see many of what I would call true Steampunk films out there, but I see a lot of people getting a lot of mileage out of the term by sticking goggles and gears helter skelter on items whether it makes sense for them to be there or not and calling the result steampunk, or “inspired by steampunk”.

  25. Funny, I was just watching the trailer again, and I have to say I see nothing in the trailer in the least that makes me consider this would be a steampunk, or steampunk inspired film at all. Perhaps Cory Doctorow saw some other scenes that I haven’t to make that assertion.

    Going back to the question I posed, and to make myself clearer on my position. I consider several anime films to be firmly in the steampunk genre. Foremost being Steamboy (a no brainer). A film that I see constantly being referred to as steampunk is Wild Wild West, a movie which has a enough wrong with it to deserve a blog of its own, but I don’t consider it steampunk. First SB is obviously an alternate timeline where steam power became the dominant power source spurring the industrial revolution. That technology is not a complete secret known only to megalomaniacs and secret evil organizations. Being an alternate history you can pretty much do what you want. WWW is not an alternate history, the series wasn’t, and the movie doesn’t claim to be, but they make the unforgivable mistake of altering historical events that make no sense whatsoever. Some people say its a fantasy so its no big, but that is the attitude of bad fantasy, it also makes for bad movies. DiVinci might have designed a flying machine, but he didn’t build one, yet this seems to be the favorite deus ex machina in films set in this era, going back to Young Sherlock Holmes. It’s ludicrous. Inventions, even fantastic ones, set in the 18th or 19th century don’t make a film steampunk. Given that Steampunk is Science Fiction, one should go back to the basic definition of the term. “The imagined impact of technology on society”. That does not mean the imagined impact of technology as a plot device, or because it looks cool.

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