Friday, January 11, 2008

Luc Besson

The fact that Besson made a movie out of this series - Arthur and the Invisibles, starring Freddie Highmore - is now old news. Oh, well...

Arthur and the Minimoys
by Luc Besson
Recommended Age: 10+

There are two things you should know before you start reading this book.

The first thing is that it was written by the French film director who created The Big Blue, The Messenger: Joan of Arc, and La Femme Nikita, as well as one of my favorite movies ever, The Fifth Element. I think time will prove The Fifth Element to be a classic film, for it is full of breathtaking imagery, gripping action and suspense, liberating doses of humor, and a healthy daub of sex appeal. It has a great hero, a great villain (played by Gary Oldman!), a great comic relief character (or several), stunning special effects, and a sci-fi fantasy plot full of mind-blowing ideas and eye-candy images. And all this came out of Luc Besson’s brain when he was a teenager! And now all of these creative juices have been turned loose on a children’s novel, or rather two novels, which are soon to become a motion picture directed by...hmmm. I wonder who? It is a story that, again, has a dashing hero (this time, only ten years old); a cruel villain (or maybe two); a touch of romance; a lot of fast-paced, suspense-driven action; and loads of exotic and magical imagery. I imagine the movie will be well worth seeing, and I know the book is worth reading.

The second thing to know about this novel is that it ends with the words, “To be continued...” And it is continued in Luc Besson’s Arthur and the Forbidden City. This is something I wasn’t so happy about. Unlike most books that are part of a series, this one did not come to anything like a satisfying ending. It is clearly and simply the first half of the story, and to read the second half you have to buy another book. I can’t say that I entirely approve of this strategy. I personally don’t see why there need to be two separate books.

Now that I have my whining hat on, I might as well also complain about one other thing. I thought the pace of this book’s narrative went too fast. I felt that even a little description could have been spared, now and then, to help me visualize the characters and settings. In spite of this, I was caught up in Arthur’s adventure all the way through this book. From the greedy, rich developer’s threat to foreclose on Grandma’s farm, to the secret message left by Arthur’s vanished Grandpa that explains how to reach the tribe of tiny people who live in the farmyard...from the funny, fast-paced adventure that leads Arthur to his first encounter to the Minimoys, to the series of thrilling chases, battles, and dangers that follow...this book (or half of a book) is the start of a dangerous quest, carried out by tiny people hidden in the grass of Grandma’s yard. When you’re that size, all kinds of things can become obstacles and enemies – particularly the army of evil henchmen who serve the unnameable master of the city called Necropolis, where Arthur and his new friends must go. Go they must, to save Granny’s farm, to save the Minimoys from certain destruction, and to find a husband for the beautiful, thousand-year-old princess who is somehow just Arthur’s age...

Can ten-year-olds fall in love? You ten-year-olds out there can be the judge of that. If you fall in love with Arthur, or Princess Selenia, or even little Prince Beta, then perhaps you won’t mind the breakneck pace of the story...or the three cruel words at the end of this book!

By the way, the book was translated from French to English by Ellen Sowchek. Céline Garcia gets credit for the original idea on which Besson based his story.

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