April and the Extraordinary World

 photo April_zpsy42kot9y.jpg photo starrating-3stars.jpgJacques Tardi’s graphic novel is turned into a striking animated feature by the producers of Persepolis. This hypnotic sci-fi adventure is set in Paris, 1941, in an alternate steampunk universe where electricity hasn’t been discovered. As a result, society never advanced beyond coal and steam power. The mysterious systematic disappearance of the world’s top scientists is the cause.

Our tale concerns April (voiced by Angela Galuppo, in the English language version). She lives with her dear cat, Darwin, who was scientifically imbued with human intelligence and a sarcastic voice to match. The majority of April and the Extraordinary World takes place 10 years after she loses touch with her scientist parents. April still hopes to find them one day. Meanwhile she secretly continues their experimental work. They were doing research on a longevity serum, which would grant immortality. The convoluted plot even has time to scold humanity for the damage caused by their evil coal driven industries.

To be honest, the story is rather perfunctory. Ecological message movies preaching to save the planet are a dime a dozen. However beautifully hand drawn 2D animated features like this are not. Directors Franck Ekinci and Christian Desmares have fashioned a glorious universe in which the viewer can just get lost. Its strengths lie in visual delights that dazzle. They captivate the eye. My mind and emotions were less enthralled. The characters are cold and aloof, even the heroes. It’s creative fun though. The action employs the character DNA of Japanese anime mixed with the science fiction of Jules Verne. Although a couple of humanoid lizards wearing robot armor were reminiscent of reptilian creatures in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Aesthetes who worship at the altar of the aforementioned passions will find themselves in cartoon nirvana. More casual fans of such things (this critic, for example) should be entertained as well, but on a somewhat lower level.

Note: I saw the U.S. English-language dub, featuring a voice cast of Paul Giamatti, Tony Hale, J.K. Simmons and Susan Sarandon. The original French-language release utilizes the voice talents of Marion Cotillard and Jean Rochefort.

04-21-16

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18 Responses to “April and the Extraordinary World”

  1. I stumbled on the news of this one a while back but I had completely forgotten all about it. Sounds like something I should be able to get into. Thanks for the reminder Mark.

    • Sadly it came and left my local theater after only 1 week. Hopefully you’ll have a better chance to see it.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        That makes me sad 😦 I’m trying to do whatever I can here in Utah to let people know about the film. It’s the one thing I would change about modern movies is the distribution inequities.

  2. smilingldsgirl Says:

    Ha! I guess I’m in the nirvana camp. 🙂 I’m surprised you found it perfunctory (nice word usage by the way). To me it was so outside the box especially with the villain and where the scientists were taken. I loved the way it actually showed you what life would be like in a steampunk world instead of just putting on a fashion show like most attempts in the genre. I also loved that character motivations were complex like her Mother. At one point I thought she was going to be the villain.
    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed it. The animation really is so beautiful. How was the English dub?

    • It was fine, but I think hearing the French language with English subtitles would’ve been more immersive. I’m sort of a purist when it comes to watching films in their original state.

      The story incorporates a lot of plot developments but without the detail that would give this account the emotional depth I craved.

      It’s a real stunner though. I was hypnotized.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I agree. I much prefer original over dubbing. I’m so glad you put your review out there because people need to know about this film.

      • I can’t believe it has already left my local theater. (A Hologram for the King with Tom Hanks is there now) It’s a shame April and the Extraordinary World didn’t get a wider release. There are defintely a lot of fans who will love this. There’s always DVD I suppose. The planned release date is in August.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Yeah that’s so frustrating.

  3. Great review. The trailer to this reminded me a lot of a Brussels-scene, and then I realised that it may have been inspired by Tintin adventures, for example it has this scientific curiosity, and I even see Schuiten inspiration in the Paris skyline.

    • I love this comment! I defintely saw The Adventures of Tintin in this. I had to look up your other reference:

      From Wikipedia:

      Les Cités obscures (literally The Obscure Cities, but initially published in English as Cities of the Fantastic) is a graphic novel series set on a Counter-Earth, started by the Belgian comics artist François Schuiten and his friend, writer Benoît Peeters in the early 1980s.

      Thank you for your insight. Please do see this. I think you’ll really enjoy it.

  4. I don’t know if it’s because I’m exhausted and totally jacked on coffee right now, but the idea of a beautifully drawn and animated film with a scattered plot really isn’t appealing to me. I’m trying to reach for a reason, but maybe it’s because I feel a lot of animated features can fit into a category like this. Still, it definitely sounds worth checking out. Thanks for the review!

  5. It was pretty good and creative. Wish the characters were more likable. Didn’t care for the lizard creations. They seemed amateurish to me. 3stars

    • The “lizard creatures” reminded me a little of a villain you might see in those Saturday morning cartoons back in the day. I’m specifically thinking of the 1970s series “Super Friends” which was based on the Justice League comic books.

  6. This looks really cool I’m gonna have to check this out!

  7. The plot doesn’t sound that engaging, but the film sounds beautifully animated and visually dazzling. Seems like the movie builds a unique world that’s nice to look at, even if its story isn’t amazing. I’m not sure if I would enjoy it, but I’m tempted to check it out anyway since I like steampunk.

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