April and the Extraordinary Worldis a steampunk animated film from the producers of the 2007 Academy Award nominated Persepolis. Its directors, Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci, have worked on classic animated movies like Persepolis and The Adventures of Tintin. It features the work of graphic novelist Jacques Tardi, who created one of the most famous French comic heroines, Adele Blanc-Sec, and stars Marion Cotillard, who won the 2008 Best Actress Academy Award. In a review for i09, Germain Lussier describes the movie as introspective and influenced by the works of Jules Verne, Douglas Adams, George Lucas, and Jayao Miyazaki (2015). The trailer looks fantastic and features Tardi’s signature graphic style, humor, social criticism as well as an intrepid young female protagonist.
This steampunk adventure is set in Paris, 1941. A husband and wife scientific team is on the brink of discovering a serum that will increase longevity when they are kidnapped, leaving behind their young daughter, April (voiced by Marion Cotillard). For ten years April lives alone, with only her talking cat, Darwin, for company and carries on her family’s research in secret until she is able to set out on a journey to find her parents. As the story develops, she finds herself at the center of a shadowy conspiracy and on the run from government agents, bicycle-powered dirigibles, and cyborg rat spies* (“Meet April,” 2016).
According to Lussier (2015) the film shows an alternate version of the world. History is changed at a crucial point, so many of the major scientific discoveries—like electricity–never occurred. The technology we now use on a daily basis—like television, smart phones, and so forth—were never invented. Instead, the world revolves steam power, and people put a premium on a whole other set of resources. Yet, April and the Extraordinary World is “a critique of the world we’re living in now,” Tardi stated in an interview with Variety (Hopewell, 2015), calling it an “entertaining scientific fantasy based on rigorous documentation.”
This film had its world premiere at the Annecy International Film Festival on June 15, 2015, and opens in New York on March 25th. It can be seen in theaters across the U.S. in limited release throughout April, 2016. “Audiences are growing, and the most exciting thing for us is the growing awareness of independent animation,” Eric Beckman, the founder and president of GKids, said in the Variety interview (Hopewell, 2015). “There’s increasing recognition that smaller-budget films from other countries have a lot of entertainment and artistic value.”
This is a movie I would love to see in the theater, but the limited release schedule does not have it appearing anywhere near my neck of the woods. It is still a fairly widespread distribution, so if you are interested you can check out a list of the theaters here.
*The steampunk elements are attractive, but the filmmakers really grabbed my attention with the phrase “cyborg rat spies.” I won’t know until I see it, of course, but I am hoping for a mixture of the rats in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and the T-1000 (Prototype Series 1000 Terminator), with just a touch of the Spy Vs. Spy characters from Mad Magazine thrown into the mix.
Hopewell, J. (2015). Annecy: Gkids takes U.S. to Studiocanal’s ‘April,’ with Marion Cotillard. Variety. Retrieved from http://variety.com/2015/film/news/gkids-april-and-the-extraordinary-world-studiocanal-1201519644/
Lussier, G. (2015). You have to see this French animated steampunk movie. Io9. Retrieved from http://io9.gizmodo.com/you-have-to-see-this-french-animated-steampunk-movie-1733192528
Meet April. (2016). April and the Extraordinary World. Retrieved from http://www.meetapril.com/