“April and the Extraordinary World” presents a charming animated adventure with a beautifully crafted, innovative steampunk-inspired world. Taking cues from animation powerhouses such as Disney and Studio Ghibli, this French film uses strong humor and incredible visuals to tell a heart-warming story that mixes fantasy with science.
The film takes place in an alternate history where Napoleon never lost control of France. Meanwhile, the world’s greatest scientists have disappeared, causing society to become stuck in the age of steam technology. Trapped in this twisted version of Paris is April (Marion Cotillard), a young chemist separated from her parents after they managed to create a serum that grants invincibility. April has tried and failed to recreate her lost parents’ work for years. When she finally succeeds and finds herself pursued by police and a mysterious society, she and her companions work to discover what happened to her family.
The strongest aspect of “April” is its warped version of an Earth lacking technological progression. The directors Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci creatively visualize a world ruled by coal-powered inventions. The characters’ adaptations to the lack of technology, whether it’s crafting floating restaurants or steam-powered cars, is imaginative and adds to the film’s artistic style. The humor, which relies on a variety of visual gags, is also spot-on and adds to the movie’s overall pleasant, whimsical nature.
The animation style, while not as elaborate and beautiful as anything produced by greats such as Hayao Miyazaki, still looks wonderful. The story manages to inventively work through the clichés commonly associated with animated adventure films, such as the funny sidekick or diabolical villains. The only place where the story feels weak is the antagonists’ “master-plan,” which is contrived and unimaginative.
“April and the Extraordinary World” doesn’t exactly revolutionize steampunk or animation, but it offers creative ideas that are well executed, and it's proof that the directors and animators possess fantastically original minds. Working with brilliant gags and a heartwarming, compelling ending, the film becomes a strong contender for the year’s best animated foreign film.
“April and the Extraordinary World”
- Directors: Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci
- Runtime: 90 minutes
- Rating: 8/10 Cats