April and the Extraordinary World has the right formula
Imagine a world without electricity. All automobiles run on coal and all the trees and forests in the world no longer exist. April and the Extraordinary World imagines this kind of future in an exciting and enjoyable fashion. An alt-history of Paris where all the scientists in the world have gone missing and nothing is left of science except an intellectually gifted talking cat.
The planet seems to be at a continual war with itself in the dark days of 1931. Any scientist that hasn’t already gone missing is a fugitive from the cops. This is of course to increase the firepower of the military. At the center of all this conflict is April’s family. They are on the verge of discovering the end of all war, an invincibility formula. This all goes awry when her parents are killed by an unknown entity and she is left with the remaining trace of the formula. The story actually picks up 10 years after the death of her parents, where all she has is her cat, Darwin.
April and the Extraordinary World successfully captures the spirit of Jacques Tardi’s comics and graphic novels. Co-directors Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci have taken the characters and structures of the series, but have made it into a whole new adventure. The content seems in line for adults and older children, the young ones might not be able to follow what is going on, let alone some of more frantic action sequences.
It’s easy to make comparisons to other animated works April and the Extraordinary World seems derived from. Graphic novels such as Tintin and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind can easily be traced as inspiration. April even has a moving house that brings with it plenty of allusions to Howl’s Moving Castle. Although those elements exist, they seem lovingly crafted into the larger picture April is trying to tell.
In the French version of the film, the title character is played by Oscar-Winner Marion Cotillard and among the established cast she is easily the most recognizable name for Western audiences. The vocal performances that best stand out besides Cotillard’s, would be that of Darwin (Philippe Katerine) and the inspector (Bouli Lanners). Distributor GKIDS will actually be releasing a full English dub including Susan Sarandon, J.K. Simmons, Paul Giamatti, and Tony Hale that wasn’t available for review, but sounds delightful nevertheless.
Perhaps the only misstep April makes is in the final third of the movie. With so many characters and subplots tying up it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. It also fully acknowledges its graphic novel roots introducing villains that while make sense given the story, seem ridiculous in any of form. Everything seems a little too neat, especially when telling a story where the majority of world’s scientist have gone missing and electricity doesn’t exist.
April and the Extraordinary World is a delightful animated film that showcases once again that animation can be about more than just cute mascot characters. Intertwined with all the world saving and romance, April is about family above all else. No matter what language that might come in, that’s something everyone can take to heart.