Recap / Asterix and Cleopatra

Julius Caesar has insulted Cleopatra by saying that the Egyptians have become decadent. To prove him wrong, Cleopatra declares that she will have a palace for him built within three months. The Queen of the Nile warns her architect Edifis that if he fails to make the three-month time limit, he will be fed to the crocodiles. Since such a thing would not be possible without magic, Edifis goes to Gaul and enlist the aid of his friend Getafix, with Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix along for the ride.

The construction of the palace is inhibited by Edifis' rival Artifis, who would love to see the former fed to the crocs. Artifis incites a worker's rebellion, and sabotages shipments of stone, both are stopped by the magic potion. Artifis tries to get rid of the Gauls by first trying to trap them in a pyramid, then framing them for attempting to poison Cleopatra and kidnapping Edifis. The Gauls are able to survive both attempts, and Artifis and his lacky Krukhut are forced to work on the palace without magic potion.

Caesar learns of the Gauls' aid, and not wanting to lose face, tries to capture them. Though the Gauls are able to fend off the Romans, the palace gets wrecked. Asterix and Dogmatix send word of this to Cleopatra, and she puts Caesar in his place. The palace is completed, Edifis recieves his reward, Getafix recieves scrolls from the Library in Alexandria, and the Gauls return home triumphant.

An Animated Adaptation of the well-loved Astérix album, first published in 1963, was made in 1968.
A Live-Action Adaptation, named Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, was released in 2002.

The comic book and animated adaptation provide examples of the following tropes :

  • Adaptation Expansion: Included a second encounter with the pirates, as well as an attempt by Caesar to quietly neutralize Getafix.
  • Adaptational Comic Relief: Cleopatra's lion in the animated version.
  • Adapted Out: Edifis' scribe does not appear in the animated version.
  • Animated Adaptation: Released in 1968. Features the first animated appearance of the pirates.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: The famous Arsenic Cake. See why in Tampering with Food and Drink below.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The region of France where Asterix's village is located is over 3,000 miles from Alexandria as the crow flies, and at least half again that distance as the galley sails (As one has to cross the entire Mediterranean, go through the Strait of Gibraltar, around Spain and up France's west coast). Even with crack rowing teams working multiple shifts, Edifis would take up at least half of his available time just getting to Getafix and bringing him back.
  • Ate the Spoon: The batter for the Special Iced Arsenic Cake - before Artifis adds the acid.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Obelix breaks the Sphinx's nose while climbing it.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Better to Sink than Be Sunk, courtesy of the pirates. Amounts to the same thing and saves them a few knocks. The animated version averts this (because this was their first meeting in the cartoons) and their ship gets boarded by the Gauls, who have a good time trashing them.
    Captain: Did you just say board us?!
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Julius Ceasar and Artifis act as two separate big bads who, despite their common goal (both want to see Edifis fail) never join forces. Artifis tries to sabotage the construction by convincing the workers to go on strike, bribing the stone-delivery man to throw his load away, kidnapping Edifis, sending Cleopatra a poisoned cake and blame the Gauls for it, and having the Gauls locked up in a pyramid. Julius Ceasar on the other hand resorts to brute force, using his soldiers to lay siege to the construction site and attack the palace with catapults.
  • Black Face: The animated version has the black pirate in the pirate's nest turn white from fear when he sees the Gauls appear. This gag has been removed nowadays.
  • Cardboard Prison: Cleopatra's prison can't keep Obelix in or out any longer than he feels like it. (Then again, what prison can?)
  • Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: Obelix divides the poisoned cake into three pieces- two little ones for Asterix and Getafix, and one large one for himself! ("You greedy pig!" mutters Asterix.)
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "When You're Eating Well You're Well" song in the animated film. In the Dutch version of the film, this is a Deleted Scene.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The pirates look different in this film than in the comics and the later animated films. The captain is taller and more muscular, and his hair is more orange than red. The lookout in the crow's nest is smaller, and the wisecracking old pirate is replaced by a parrot.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Parodied; When Cleopatra thinks the Gauls are going to assassinate her, she launches into a big speech that they will see how a queen faces her fate until Asterix interrupts to explain what's going on.
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • Obelix destroying the Sphinx' nose explains why it has no nose nowadays.
    • In the comic Edifis' scribe says he speaks all the living languages: Latin, Greek and Egyptian. Today all these ancient languages are dead.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: After a particularly disastrous offensive by the Romans:
    Legionnary 1: We'll be an-Nile-lated!
    Legionnary 2: One more pun like that and I desert!!
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, which came out in 2002.
  • Meaningful Name: Artifis' henchman is named Krukhut ("Crew cut") in the English version, and has a shaven head when we first see him. This becomes an Ironic Name when he makes a vow never to shave his head again if the Gauls escape the pyramid in which he has abandoned them... and when they do escape, he keeps his vow, and has a full, thick head of hair by the end of the book.
  • Mickey Mousing: The animated movie contains lots of this, especially with the potion-empowered Egyptians effortlessly passing bricks around.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: After he and his crew have been forced to take jobs as galley slaves on Cleopatra's barge, the captain expresses an unusual determination to wreak revenge on the Gauls — in his later book appearances (much like he did at the beginning of this one), he seeks to avoid them as much as possible.
  • Rapid Hair Growth: The henchman of the villain Artifis vows never to shave his head again until the pesky Gauls are killed. The rate at which his shaven skull becomes extremely hirsute then becomes a Running Gag.
  • Reclining Reigner: Caesar lies on a reclined seat and eats chicken at the beginning.
  • Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony: In 50 B.C, even!
  • Shout-Out:
    • The album cover is a parody of the movie poster to Cleopatra. Several scenes are also directly inspired by this film, including Cleopatra travelling on a large sphinx, pulled by slaves.
    • In front of the pyramids Getafix tells Obelix: "20 centuries look down upon you." This is a reference to Napoleon's comment in 1797 to his soldiers during his campaign in Egypt when they were standing in front of the same monuments: "40 centuries are looking down upon you."
    • When Asterix and Obelix confront Artifis after the collapse of his plan to frame them for attempting to poison Cleopatra, he is reading a newspaper called Pharaon-Soir in the original French (a reference to the evening paper France-Soir) and Daily Nile in English (a pun on Daily Mail). The front page has two comics on it; in the original French, they are entitled Chéri-Bibis and Isis de mon coeur, parodies of Chéri-Bibi and Juliette de mon coeur (the French title for Stan Drake's soap opera comic The Heart of Juliet Jones), while in English the first strip has been re-titled Ptarzan and the second replaced with Pnuts (the heads of Charlie Brown and Snoopy are just visible above the bottom of the frame).
  • Stinger: After the traditional banquet, there's a panel that shows Vitalstatistix berating Obelix for making menhirs shaped like obelisks.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: The Special Iced Arsenic Cake takes this Up to 11 - the cake is made almost entirely out of poison. According to the Villain Song, it is made out of: Strychnine, Hemlock, Paraffin, Opium, a Leech in Scum, Chopped Frog's Spawn, Arsenic, Narcotic, Castor Oil, Snake's Blood, Crushed Tadpole, Glue, Rat Poison, Cobra's Venom, Orange Juice (For flavor), Mandrake Root, Moldy Fruit and Vitriol.
    • How Artifis managed to make a cake without eggs or flour is never explained. It's even lampshaded as, just before turning the large bowl of toxic batter upside down on the table without having baked it (revealing it as looking quite like a normal cake, which has somehow already been frosted), Artifis gives a wink to the viewer, as if to say "Just wait till you see our little trick!"
    • It isn't explained, either, how he was able to bake something that contains petrol without exploding along with his mixture.
    • Cleopatra's taster is Made of Iron. It's a miracle he doesn't die on the spot after tasting the cake, which seemingly just gives him stomach pains. It might be fatal to him eventually, but by the time Getafix gives him the antidote, a few hours have passed.
  • Vacation Episode: Asterix, Obelix and Getafix travel to Egypt.
  • Villain Song: "The Arsenic Cake" song from Artifis and Krukhut in the animated film.

Alternative Title(s): Asterix And Cleopatra