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Film review: April and the Extraordinary World – animated sci-fi adventure

Hand-drawn feature adapted from graphic novel takes the viewer into an intricately imagined alternate world; while its story is rambling, it offers a spectacle to enchant kids and adults alike

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 June, 2016, 7:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 June, 2016, 7:00am

4/5 stars

Most sci-fi adventure films, to some extent, involve world-saving heroics. April and the Extraordinary World is no exception – even if it takes a mostly unpredictable path to get there. Adapted for the big screen from the work of celebrated French graphic novelist Jacques Tardi, this hand-drawn animated feature by first-time directors Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci is a steampunk marvel that will enchant both kids and adults with its high-concept premise.

In a brief 1870s-set prologue, French Emperor Napoleon III is killed in an accident inside a scientist’s laboratory, leading to the escape of two lizard-like creatures that would change the course of history. As the story picks up several decades later, the audience is told that the world has stopped progressing since the Age of Steam, as all the prominent scientists and inventors who would push through the Industrial Revolution have gone missing one after another.

How a French graphic novel spawned one of 2016’s most acclaimed films

Ever since she lost contact with her scientist parents and grandfather in a police run-in in 1931, April (voiced by Marion Cotillard) – the great-granddaughter of the scientist in the prologue – has lived a reclusive life. Fast forward to 1941 and the budding scientist, along with her talking cat Darwin (Philippe Katerine), must continue to evade the dogged inspector Pizoni (Bouli Lanners), and a pickpocket (Marc-André Grondin) reluctantly involved.

In this rambling story, co-scripted by Ekinci and Benjamin Legrand (writer of the Snowpiercer comics), we are brought into an alternate universe where Paris is home to twin Eiffel Towers, wars are waged over charcoal, and a serum that April’s family invented could hold the key to world domination. Regardless of how receptive the viewer is to its old-school line drawings, the film remains an inventive spectacle that takes a thrilling trip to some very strange places.

April and the Extraordinary World opens on June 2

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