By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
France’s sci-fi literary tradition has a long and storied history that comprises a lot more than Jules Verne, from Pierre Boulle’s Le Planete de Singes…
Which you may know by a different title.
…to Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal), Transperceneige (Snowpiercer). Many other titles you may or may not know spring from this tradition, but, halfway through writing this introduction, I realized April and the Extraordinary World did not, despite it’s obvious debt to comics artist extraordinaire Jacques Tardi.
So… about that plot? April’s scientist parents were close to cracking the code on an invulnerability serum in an alternate world where most scientists have gone into hiding and technological advancement ground to a halt in the 1870s. Now she continues their work with her talking cat, Darwin (another product of their experiments), until getting drawn into a scheme involving that serum, lizard people, Howl-like moving houses, and much more. There’s… a lot going on.
Can’t say there’s a dearth of imagination from the directing and writing team of Franck Ekinci, Christian Desmares, and Benjamin Legrand. While clearly indebted to French scifi and comic traditions of the 60s and onwards, they stuff the film with crazy design and world-building quirks that fit both the further out there elements and the really interesting steampunky late Industrial Age dialed up to 11 backdrop.
Les Tours Eiffels
The animation has a very, well, French quality, not drawing only on the work of Tardi, but also the other mononymed giant of the art, Hergé. Simple lines and austere character designs integrate with environments teeming with details- architecture, technology, and landscape all fitting their vision.
April is also very adult in surprising ways, dealing with death frankly and portraying the couple dynamics between the April’s parents and even the two main lizards in interestingly realistic ways. This adds humor and pathos and maybe even a touch of depth, and some Pixar-like appeals to emotion often work as clearly intended.
For a movie clocking in under two hours, there’s just way too much going on; Steampunk, Lizard People, alternate history, Ayn Randian exceptionalism, an often annoying talking cat, French comedy, supersoldier Wolverine serums… it’s crazytown.
Again, Lizard People.
The message that seems like must be there gets lost entirely. Is this environmentalist?, Anti-environmentalist? Luddite or progressive? There’s some very weird politics at play, but they’re definitely politics.
Alex Jones = Lizard People?
All this clutter gets in the way of the plot a bit- certain pieces, like April and anonymous scrappy street youth dude’s flirting is rushed and underdeveloped because there’s so much whimsy and wonder to stuff into the film. The title character in particular is upstaged by her supporting players, and is not terribly compelling even if she did carry the film solo. Maybe a little more April and a little less Extraordinary World would have gone a long way.
April and the Extraordinary World boasts intriguing design and eye-catching animation, but both too much and too little story to pull it all together.
April and the Extraordinary World (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for pratfalls
Take a Drink: for electrocution
Take a Drink: for bright chemicals and serums
Take a Drink: for every dramatic reveal
Do a Shot: for Robo-Rats