« Around the world in 80 days »: what is this new TV adaptation worth?

PNo one will be surprised to see France Télévisions embark on such an arduous journey as a new adaptation of the Around the world in 80 days from Jules Verne. Public service obliges, France 2 again waves the flag of popular culture, a few weeks after offering a new version – effective and followed by 3.5 million viewers – of another great classic of French literature, Germinal. And, if, in a few days, the sales of books signed by the great Jules take off, his beneficiaries will be able to fully thank France 2.

But, this time, the capital is not only French and this World Tour is the result of a co-production with Italian Rai and German ZDF. “As a broadcaster, since the massive arrival of platforms in Europe, we had less and less access to certain projects. With L’Alliance, which we created in 2018, we were able to access not only much higher production budget levels, but above all to well-known “brands”. [comme ici Le Tour du monde en 80 jours, NDLR] which the platform market is currently very fond of ”, explained to us last June the director of acquisitions and co-productions of international fiction of France Televisions, Nathalie Biancolli, replaced since by Manuel Alduy, evoking Leonardo, the other long-awaited blockbuster about the youth of Leonardo da Vinci.

David Tennant and Fogg

Astonishing not to see Great Britain appear behind the scenes, while Phileas Fogg here takes on the features of the excellent and charismatic David Tennant, known to the general public for having embodied the 10e and very striking Dr Who or the disillusioned cop from the detective seriese Broadchurch. It turns out that the UK did not want to put a few marbles in the project, but the very demanding BBC bought this series of eight episodes. Proof of its quality? We can possibly interpret this « turnaround » as well.

Indeed, without disrupting the world of series, this beautiful European product does not have to be ashamed of many other productions better supplied internationally. And if Lupin has left you with an aftertaste of crass disappointment, this new adaptation of the iconic novel by Jules Verne (22 years after the American miniseries led by Pierce Brosnan) combines here without difficulty two essential assets for a channel like France 2: family spectacle and modernity .

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No question of offering a version « in its own juice » of a dish even as traditional as Around the world in 80 days. Here, Phileas Fogg is still a British explorer, more touching, less « head to head » and less irritating than his model, whose motivations do not obey only logistical reasons. He shares his trip with his valet Jean Passepartout, played by the Frenchman of Malian origin Ibrahim Koma (seen in the soap opera Under the sun and OSS 117: Red alert in black Africa). In this new version, no suspicious policeman to stick to the basques of our explorer, but a journalist, intrepid and malignant (defended with conviction by Leonie Benesch, seen in The Crown) which thus brings a touch of femininity to the casting. A touch of feminism? Yes, certainly a little, so much his character does not seem to stick to his time but more to ours.

Humor and coulis of romanticism

The menu is above all prestigious. A layer of romanticism and a layer of humor as a bonus… Even the soundtrack is signed by Mr. Hans Zimmer himself. As for the beauty of the decorations, the wealth of means of transport (train, boat, hat, balloon, etc.), they are accompanied by special effects that are all successful. Should we be surprised when we know that the project was placed in the hands of the Irish Steve Barron, known for having directed in the 1980s the clips of « Billie Jean » by Michael Jackson or the famous « Take on Me ”from the a-ha group (the one in which the hero is stuck in a comic book), without forgetting his adaptation of Pinocchio in 1996 or … Ninja Turtles ! We must believe that risky adaptations do not scare him, since it was already he who, in the early 2000s, had led a new version of Tales from 1001 nights for the American chain ABC or Treasure Island in 2012.

READ ALSO« Leonardo »: the behind the blockbuster of France Televisions

This 65-year-old veteran does not deserve it here and the cocktail he offers turns out to be tastier than one might have thought. Especially in view of the very difficult filming conditions that the teams were confronted with. Filming that began in early 2020 in South Africa, a few weeks before a certain virus, whose name we vaguely discovered, Covid-19, came to invite itself to the festivities. Shooting stopped in disaster. Postponed indefinitely after having been announced many times, the recovery took place in early 2021 in Romania, then again in South Africa… where a new variant had just been discovered. The famous world tour will have lasted three hundred and sixty-five days in total!

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