Introduction | Asterix the Gaul | Asterix and Cleopatra | The Twelve Tasks of Asterix
Asterix versus Cæsar | Asterix in Britain | Asterix and the Big Fight | Asterix Conquers America | Asterix and the Vikings | Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods | Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion
Asterix and the Big Fight, known as Astérix et le Coup du Menhir in French, is the sixth Asterix animated film. It was a French-German co-production and the last Asterix film to be made in the 1980s.
Like Asterix Versus Cæsar, this film is a combination of two Asterix comics: Asterix and the Big Fight and Asterix and the Soothsayer. Despite its name, it has far more plot elements from Asterix and the Soothsayer than from Asterix and the Big Fight.
Asterix and the Big Fight – the Comic's Plot
After Asterix and Obelix defeat a Roman patrol, Centurion Nebulus Nimbus and his right-hand man Felonius Caucus plan to take control of the Gaulish village by using the Gaulish custom of a Big Fight. This is when a village chieftain challenges another village chieftain. The winner of the fight becomes the chief of both villages. They know a Gaulish chieftain who supports the Romans, Cassius Ceramix1, who agrees to challenge chief Vitalstatistix if they can prevent Getafix from making him any more potion.
A camouflaged Roman patrol is sent to capture Getafix. They attack him, only to meet Asterix and a menhir-carrying Obelix. Obelix throws his menhir at the Romans but it lands on Getafix, knocking him unconscious. When Getafix comes round, he has lost his mind. He is so insane he even enjoys Cacofonix's singing and no longer knows how to make the magic potion.
Meanwhile, Cassius Ceramix challenges Vitalstatistix to single combat, believing Getafix to be dead. When he discovers him alive, he panics and so a Roman patrol is sent to investigate, led by Infirmofpurpus. Asterix and Obelix try to see if Getafix will make the magic potion if they give him lots of ingredients, but this results in explosions. Infirmofpurpus is sent to the village disguised as a tree, attracting the attentions of a passing owl, who follows him. Asterix and Obelix capture Infirmofpurpus, force him to drink the potions Getafix brews until he drinks one which makes him fly, much to the delight of the owl.
Meanwhile, Asterix decides that only another druid can cure Getafix, and so druid Psychoanalytix is brought to the village. Alas, he asks Obelix to demonstrate what happened to Getafix; Obelix obliges by dropping a menhir on Psychoanalytix, who becomes as insane as Getafix and also brews various potions.
The day of the Big Fight approaches, a fairground is set up outside the village, and Cassius Ceramix is confident while Vitalstatistix worries. As the fight begins, Getafix is cured when he and Psychoanalytix mix all their potions together. However, just as it becomes evident he is once more sane, he is struck down again by a menhir thrown by Obelix, who believes that he can cure Getafix by hitting him again. Fortunately, no serious damage is done, and Getafix brews some magic potion. When Vitalstatistix sees that Getafix is better, he is suddenly so full of confidence that he defeats Cassius Ceramix without any magical assistance. However, in the moment of victory, the Romans attack but are defeated by the magic potion. Obelix, meanwhile, throws a menhir at Cassius Ceramix, who loses his mind and no longer is pro-Roman.
Asterix and the Soothsayer – the Comic's Plot
A vicious storm strikes the village one night when Getafix is away at a druids' conference. All the villagers are gathered in Vitalstatistix's hut when a sinister figure named Prolix enters, claiming to be a soothsayer (one who can see the future). After hearing how the villagers love quarrelling, he predicts that there will be a quarrel and that the weather will improve after the storm. Sure enough, there is a small fish fight and the weather improves. Although Asterix immediately recognises him as a con artist, he impresses Impedimenta, who chases after him when he leaves the village. In return for providing him with fine dining, which he claims he will use as a means of getting entrails to predict the future, he agrees to set up camp in a clearing in the forest and predict Impedimenta's future, on condition that Asterix and Obelix are kept away. The fact that the soothsayer is in the forest is soon known to everyone except Asterix and Obelix, who are ordered to stay in the village after laughing at Impedimenta calling Vitalstatistix 'Piggywiggy'. The soothsayer predicts whatever will make his audience happy so that they will continue to provide him with food; as he becomes more accepted by them, he starts to demand gold.
The Romans, meanwhile, send a patrol into the forest and capture the soothsayer, who is taken to the Roman fort under the command of Centurion Voluptuous Arteriosclerosus. The Centurion, despite orders to arrest soothsayers, decides to use the soothsayer to predict his own fortune. Asterix, fed up of not knowing what is happening, goes into the forest and is found in the now empty clearing by Impedimenta. She accuses Asterix of driving the soothsayer away. The soothsayer appears at the village and warns the villagers to leave to save their lives as the gods are angry, predicting poisonous air. Everyone flees to a nearby island except Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix. The soothsayer is actually working for the Romans, who march into the village and claim to have captured all of Gaul.
At that moment Getafix returns, learns what has occurred and decides to play a trick on the Romans by brewing up a foul-smelling gas which he floods the village with. He later demonstrates this to the villagers, but the women are not convinced that the soothsayer was a fake. Asterix persuades them to try to surprise the soothsayer. If the soothsayer is surprised, then he cannot predict the future, and therefore is a fake. The women attack the Roman camp, catching the soothsayer unawares. He leaves, the Centurion is demoted to a common legionary and the Gauls move back into their village.
Asterix and the Big Fight – the Plot of the Film
The film uses Asterix and the Big Fight comic book plot elements to bookend the film, but is more closely based on Asterix and the Soothsayer. The appearance of General Caous and Decurion Crysus match the characters in Asterix and the Soothsayer, not Asterix and the Big Fight.
The plot of the film has the Romans attempt to capture Getafix, with Obelix knocking him unconscious and mad with a menhir. A storm descends that night and Prolix, the soothsayer, arrives. He predicts improved weather and a fight, and leaves the village in the morning. Asterix tries to find out if Getafix remembers how to make the magic potion, but the only thing that Getafix can now brew is a potion which causes explosions. These lead the nearby Romans to send a legionary to investigate what is happening. Disguised as a tree, Ardeco creeps up to the village, pursued by an owl, where he is captured and forced to drink various potions which have various effects, before one allows him to fly back to the fort. A patrol is sent out to observe the Gauls.
While Asterix tries to get Getafix to brew the magic potion, Impedimenta chases after the soothsayer and convinces him to stay if she keeps Asterix and Obelix out of the forest. Soon everyone except Asterix and Obelix, who are ordered to remain with Getafix, know the soothsayer is in the forest. When Asterix finally tries to find out what is happening in the forest, the Roman patrol have already seized and arrested Prolix. Seeing Asterix in the forest and with the soothsayer nowhere to be seen, Impedimenta accuses Asterix of driving the soothsayer away. Prolix, meanwhile, is brought before General Caous, and trying to avoid getting into trouble, tells him that he is a soothsayer. He predicts that General Caous will get a promotion and that the Gauls will do anything he says. Believing Prolix to be genuine, Caous convinces him to tell the Gauls that the gods have cursed their village. Prolix proclaims that the village air will be poisoned and all the villagers except Asterix, Obelix and the still insane Getafix flee to a nearby island. Prolix and the Romans enter the village and a messenger is dispatched to inform Julius Cæsar that all Gaul is conquered.
Getafix, meanwhile, is still brewing potions, one of which creates a foul gas that floods the village, convincing the Romans that Prolix's prediction of poisonous air is coming true. They flee, but the gas overwhelms Asterix who lies unconscious. The fumes also seems to bring Getafix back to his senses, but just as he seems sane, Obelix, believing another blow to the head might restore him to his senses, throws another menhir at him. Fortunately Getafix maintains his wits and travels to the island to convince the villagers that the soothsayer was a fake. The village women then silently attack the Roman camp, taking the soothsayer by surprise. General Caous is reduced to the position of a legionary and when Prolix tries to get away Obelix throws a menhir at him, leaving him insane and harmless.
British Translation Cast
- Asterix – Bill Oddie
- Obelix – Bernard Bresslaw
- Vitalstatistix – Douglas Blackwell
- Getafix – Peter Hawkins
- Impedimenta – Sheila Hancock
- Cacofonix – Tim Brooke-Taylor
- General Caous – Brian Blessed
- Decurion Crysus – Michael Elphick
- Prolix – Ron Moody
- Ardeco – Andrew Sachs2
This is undoubtedly the finest cast assembled to dub Asterix into English. Brian Blessed is perfect as the shouty Roman General Caous (pronounced 'Chaos'). He has had extensive acting experience including playing Emperor Augustus in the BBC's renowned drama series I, Claudius and is also well known for playing Voltan in the film Flash Gordon. He has appeared in The Black Adder, the first series of the classic comedy series Blackadder, played various roles in Doctor Who and Blake's 7 and Boss Nass in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace3. Bernard Bresslaw, an actor famous for his role in the Carry On series as well as Doctor Who appearances, especially as the Ice Warriors, seems born to voice Obelix with a natural, easy performance that fits the character perfectly.
Bill Oddie as Asterix also works well. He is now well known for presenting animal programmes as well as Live From Dinosaur Island, a palaeontology programme investigating the Isle of Wight's dinosaurs. He began his career in the cult comedy series The Goodies. His Goodies co-star, Tim Brooke-Taylor, provides Cacofonix's voice. Bill Oddie in real life is a similar build to how Asterix is portrayed and, like Asterix, he has facial hair. They also share similar interests – Bill Oddie likes birds and Asterix is rarely seen without his bird-winged helmet. Sheila Hancock, another established British comedy star, perhaps most famous for her roles in the Carry On series, including Carry On Cleo, set at the same time as Asterix and the Big Fight, is spot on in her portrayal of Impedimenta.
Dub and Dumber - The American Translation
The American voice cast, as if ashamed of the travesty they have inflicted on Asterix, are not credited in the American version of Asterix and the Big Fight. There are several differences from the British version. These include:
Changes to major recurring characters' names:
Roman characters names do not all end in 'us', one of the common themes throughout Asterix comics and films:
- General Caous is known as 'Bossa Nova'
- A legionary is known as 'Sergeant Noodles'
The Soothsayer is referred to as a 'Fortune Teller'
The Magic Potion is referred to as a 'Vitamin Drink'
Menhirs are called 'rocks' and, more often, 'rockets'.
The offshore island of Taxhaven is unnamed.
The Roman characters attempt to speak in Italian accents.
The Gauls are portrayed as being overly French, frequently saying 'Oh la la' etc.
Prolix asks to be provided with Wild Boar, Chicken, Turkey, French Fries and Beer rather than Turkey, Chicken, Duck, Wild Boars and dry red wine.
'Bossa Nova' talks about a Roman air force.
The end credits are in German, not English.
When the storm hits, the Romans state that they are waiting for someone to invent the umbrella.
A major difference is that the American version has a narrator who narrates constantly. Whenever he suspects there is a possibility of a small gap in the dialogue, the narrator starts spouting nonsense to fill it like an insecure spotty teenage boy afraid of allowing any awkward silences on a first date. For instance, at one point he states that Gauls, who are people, should not be confused with gulls, a type of bird that dwells along coastal areas. The narrator also mentions Chicken Little, an unconnected American cartoon character. The British translation does not have any narration.
The dialogue is extremely dumbed down. For instance, at the start Asterix tells Obelix that 'Gaul is Roman for French'.6.
There is, however, one rather good joke unique to the American translation. When 'Bossa Nova' asks the Soothsayer to describe his future as Cæsar, the Soothsayer replies that he will be well known for his salad dressing7.
Sadly, at time of writing, only the American dub is available to purchase as part of the The Collected Adventures of Asterix box set. At a time when multi-language tracks are common on DVD and Blu-Ray discs, this oversight is unforgivable, as is the lack of extras, documentaries, option to view in the original French or even subtitles.
Review of the British Version
This, the last of the 1980s Asterix films, is one of the neglected gems of the Asterix series. It has an outstanding British cast and solid, even if not spectacular, animation with almost no use of silhouettes or other shortcut techniques. It also has good and effective visual sequences, in particular the storm coupled with Prolix's entrance. Although the film's visuals never quite reach the spectacular level, this is not through want of trying. There are several ambitious sequences. These include the 'music video' Getafix sees when Cacofonix plays and the scene in which Getafix experiments with potions, testing them on a Roman guinea pig. Sadly these do not quite come off and the potion-tasting scene seems perhaps too long, but the desire to create something new and exciting can be seen even if it is not achieved.
The film's biggest weakness is its English title, Asterix and the Big Fight. The French title, which refers to the menhir that causes Getafix's insanity, is more accurate. The title Asterix and the Big Fight implies that the film contains a big fight. If not the big fight tradition between chiefs that features in the book of the same name, at least a big fight of some description. Sadly, however, there is no big fight. There is a standard fish fight near the start of the film, which barely counts. There is also a fight with the Romans at the end of the film, but only half the villagers, in this case the women, take part. Can a fight involving only half the Gauls be described as 'big' when 'smaller than usual' seems more accurate? The fight does not even last longer than other fights against the Romans in other Asterix films.
There are some quite novel moments. When Prolix enters the house of Vitalstatistix, Unhygienix makes the sign of the cross with his fish to ward him away. This is quite a charming moment, even if the sign of the cross would not have had any relevance at the time the film is set – 50 years Before Christ.
There is a sequence which appears to be inspired by The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. General Caous enjoys sitting in his bathtub with a rubber duck, a pastime also enjoyed by the Golgafrincham 'B' Ark captain. Although there is a frame in the comic book Asterix and the Big Fight in which the Centurion has a bath, in the comic he spends far more time in a towel and no rubber ducks appear at all. That the inspiration would come from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the television version of which was made only eight years before the animated film Asterix and the Big Fight, seems much more likely. It is not the only television science fiction programme influencing this film – one of the potions that Getafix feeds to the legionary makes him run super-fast in slow-motion, just like the character of Colonel Steve Austin in the mid-1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man.
Like other Asterix films dubbed into English, all the signs seen in the film are still in French. There is also an amusing moment near the end of the film in which the Prefect, whose chariot wheel was smashed moments before, apparently manages to repair his chariot instantly.
The character of Prolix is a strong one – characters similar to him would appear in the next two Asterix films.
There is a song sequence in the film, the theme of to which is Getafix being hit on the head by a menhir. This song, entitled 'Zonked' and composed by Michel Colombier, sadly is not very good, which considering it is sung by Cacofonix is perhaps the point. The only two people who ever like Cacofonix's music are Getafix, when he is knocked on the head by Obelix's menhir, and Cacofonix himself, who is frequently knocked on the head by Fulliautomatix. We can only assume that Cacofonix plays head-banging music.
Connections With Other Asterix Films
Like Asterix the Gaul, the film is entirely set in the village and surrounding area, including the woods and neighbouring Roman fort.
The scene near the beginning where the Roman legionaries are outnumbered by two Gauls, a litte dog and two boars is reminiscent of the first scene set in the Roman camp of HumSweetHum in Asterix the Gaul in which four Romans report that they were outnumbered by one Gaul.
This is the first Asterix film not to feature Julius Cæsar. He would also not appear in Asterix and the Vikings.
General Caous looks identical to General Motus in Asterix in Britain and the Centurion in Asterix Conquers America, and Decurion Crysus and Legionary Ardeco also have identical body-doubles in those films.
During the potion testing sequence, legionary Ardeco is multiplied several times before his duplicates pop like bubbles. A similar sequence is seen in the live action film Asterix and Obelix Take On Cæsar
General Caous has a swan-shaped bath. A similar one is seen outside the Place that Sends You Mad in The Twelve Tasks Of Asterix as well as in the live action film Asterix at the Olympic Games.
General Caous aspiring to replace Julius Cæsar is similar to General Phonus Bolonus in Asterix the Gaul conspiring to dethrone Cæsar.
The village women defeat the Romans legions, just as they defeated the gladiators in the arena in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix. Panacea, the village woman in Asterix Versus Cæsar who is unable to defend herself at all, does not appear.
The Romans attempt to kidnap Getafix, just as they did in Asterix the Gaul. They would attempt to do so again in Asterix Conquers America.
Characters who are fake magicians, like Prolix the fraudulent soothsayer, appear in both Asterix Conquers America and Asterix and the Vikings.
Novelisation – Operation Getafix
A novelisation of the film Asterix and the Big Fight was published. Because that title had already been used for the comic book that was half the inspiration for the story, the novelisation was issued under the name Operation Getafix. This was the 31st Asterix book, although subsequent publications of the Asterix series have removed this novelisation from the approved list, as well as those of The Twelve Tasks of Asterix and Asterix Versus Cæsar.
The version of the film that Operation Getafix is closest to is the British translation, with characters known as Getafix, Cacofonix and Vitalstatistix. Menhirs are called menhirs and not rockets, Getafix is a druid who makes a magic potion, not a wizard who makes a vitamin drink and Prolix is a soothsayer not a fortune teller. Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge, who did the English translations of the comic books the story was based on, were the ones who translated the novelisation into English. They did make a few minor changes from the film to bring it closer in line with the comic books. Instead of General Caous, the leading Roman is referred to as the Centurion, with his aide, Decurion Crysus, renamed the Optio. Legionary Ardeco is now Infirmofpurpus, his name in the comic book Asterix and the Big Fight.
Unlike the previous novelisation, Operation Getafix is narrated entirely from Asterix's point of view.