April and The Extraordinary World (2016)

Fevier Francais continues, as well as any mentions of Extraordinary Worlds and the presence of Jacque Tardi somehow in a feature film. What strikes me is the fact that this is labelled a children’s film on Amazon Prime. They are wrong. Very, very wrong. This is definitely a family film. There are just too many multi-layered jokes along with historical conundrum mixed into the general absurdity, never mind visuals that aren’t normally associated with your average Disney movie (such as anatomically correct cats…you’ll see what I mean). I can also tell you that this is the second film to include Adele Blanc-Sec – however her appearance is that of an easter egg. Her comic form (rather than her movie form) is present, along with our dear Pterodactyl present in the opening credits . So in a Where’s Wally/Waldo/Alfred Hitchcock fashion, feel free to see if you can spot her. Until then – this is April and The Extraordinary World (or April and The Fake World if you’re translating from French).

The film starts off in 1870, then in 1931 and then it jumps to 1941. All of it in Paris. Our story revolves around Avril Franklin (or April Franklin), her family of scientists (Pops, Paul and Annette), and their highly intelligent talking felix cat called Darwin. In this film’s world, Napoleon III attempts to get Pops’ father Gustav to create mutated and invulnerable super-soldiers to aid the french in defeating the Prussians (The Frano-Prussian War was starting the next day). The only results they received were 2 highly intelligent Komodo Dragons. Frightened, Napoleon tries to kill them with his handgun. Leading to an explosion in the lab, killing everyone inside. Napoleon III’s son becomes Napoleon IV, and rather than participate in the Anglo-Zulu War (which got him killed in real life) he signs a peace treaty with the Prussians and secures the Bonaparte dynasty within France. After this, Scientists, including Einstein and Fermi, end up disappearing. Billions of trees are cut down over time. France declares war on Canada to obtain more trees and charcoal, and any remaining scientists are ordered to serve the French Empire by modernising their weapons. Meanwhile, the Franklins attempt to create a serum that gives everlasting life and invulnerability for humans, animals and plants. But they were unable to test the serum before Inspector Gaspar Pizoni (who looks a lot like Inspector Albert Caponi from Adele Blanc-Sec) shows up to arrest them. A chase happens, April and Darwin become separated from her family (who may or may not be dead), we fast forward to 1941, and this is when the real adventure begins.

Now to discuss any qualities that could be everlasting and invulnerable:

The Art Style goes back to what I said in the opening paragraph. In The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec we get Jacques Tardi’s story and characters done in live action. Here, we get Tardi’s art style brought to life through animation. The kind he uses for his Comic Books…and it’s very distinct. You know by looking at it, this is Tardi…and it’s beautiful. The main colour throughout the movie is Grey, and every colour compliments or blends into said grey with some highlight scenes.

The animation has a great accent, and very much moves the way you would expect a Tardi comic would look in animation. If you’re looking for something along the lines of Disney or Ghibli or Shinkai, this isn’t up there among them. But where it might fall in that standard, it makes itself up by creating the animations necessary for the best reactions. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and had a good laugh at the physically humorous tone.

The Voice Acting in French is excellent, and I’m sad to acknowledge that I’m not likely going to hear the English dub of the film any time soon (not available on DVD or Amazon Prime Video, but is available on Blu-Ray, which I didn’t get)…because the casting on that side looks tremendous! And after I watched the trailer for the english one…I’m a little jealous of anybody who finds it, if I’m honest. Anyway, April is voiced by Marion Cotillard (Making yet another appearance in my reviews from over the last month), and Darwin is voiced by french musician Philippe Katerine. Every voice fits every character designs well.

The characters are great. Definitive cartoon characters brought to life and are full of life in general. April is an excellent central character, and her cynicism is part of her charm. Darwin is a bit of a show stealer, because everyone likes a talking cat.

The story is great fun, and provides a lot to think about. It is always moving, but knowing when to stop and smell the engine oil. The amount of imagination that went into creating this Steampunk Dystopia was well put together, and more or less transformed Paris into a nightmare that could be found throughout several countries within the nineteenth and twentieth century…all within Paris. War and environmentalism is are key themes throughout the film, with both being turned up to eleven here without scarring children for life (I’m looking at you Watership Down!). The goal of the heroes is to bring the world back to what it was before war destroyed everything and science was used to advance it. Even though it’s technically a fairy tale, there is sadly truth to the fact that some of the advancement of modern technology and medicine was originally tested or designed for war. Which will make some of us look at our phones and then go “…meh”.

The music by Valentin Hadjadj is absolutely epic. Some of it sounds like it would belong in a Marvel movie, others a Spielberg movie, others a Tim Burton movie (more specifically, Danny Elfman’s scores for Burton’s batman and Batman: The Animated Series), and yet it is all very fitting for every scene of a French Animated Steampunk Dytopian Comedy. The song ‘Les molécules de l’amour’ (sung by Claire Tillier) provides something that wouldn’t normally be associated with a Steampunk Dystopia…a hint of Folk music. Which, when I think about it, is pretty awesome. Consider Joan Baez’s music; powerfully lyrical, yet performed with a whimsical, other-worldly instrumental…In a world where all of the trees are cut down and smog pretty much replaces breathable air, do we normally associate earthy music with it? Probably not. But that’s provided that here.

Would I recommend April And The Extraordinary World? Yes, you bet your bottom dollar that I will. The fact that this film made a ten million dollar loss at the box office is criminal. It’s as good as most Disney and Anime that you’ll see out there and it is pumped to the brim with good quality imagination, heart and visual presentation.

Art Style: ****3/4

Animation: ****1/2

Voice Acting: ****3/4

Characters: ****1/2

Story: ****1/2

Music: ****3/4

Themes: ****1/2

Overall: ****1/2

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