Steampunk Desperado

Where the Nineteenth Century meets the Twenty-First.

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Twisted in a Good Way – April and the Extraordinary World

n today’s media-saturated world, clever and original films seldom get the attention they deserve. We found this animated movie in a web search, having missed it when it was released in 2015. This French language film stars the award-winning actress Marion Cotillard as April Franklin. The English dubbed version features some big names as well, including Paul Giamatti and Susan Sarandon. Arlys and I found it to be simply delightful.

The film’s writers were Franck Ekinci and Benjamin Legrand. Ekinci was also involved in directing and producing the movie. It was a French-Belgian-Canadian project, combining talents from 3 of the world’s major French-speaking countries. (What, no Swiss?) The original title, Avril et le Monde Truque’ literally means “April and the Twisted World.” And the world is indeed twisted – note the twin Eiffel Towers on the promotional poster.

Extraordinary World features an alternate history where the great scientists of the late 1800’s (Einstein, Fermi, etc.) all disappear, keeping the world stuck in the Age of Steam well into the 20th Century. This also happens to the mother, father, and grandfather of the protagonist, April Franklin (Angela Galuppo in the English version), as they are about to make their big breakthrough. The plucky young April survives on her own with only her cat for company. Yet Darwin is no ordinary cat. He can think, talk, and even read as the result of the Franklins’ experiments. As the years pass, April struggles to find the “ultimate serum” to the aging feline back to health.

Yet April and Darwin face other dangers. Gaspar Pizoni, an ambitious police inspector, pursues them in an effort to apprehend April’s parents, who as scientists have been drafted into the service of Napoleon’s Empire. She escapes him with the help of Julius, an impoverished young man who is secretly working for the inspector. Also, since April is now a scientist in her own right, the mysterious electrical cloud that took her parents is coming to get her as well.

We found April and the Extraordinary World to be absorbing and entertaining. Though it has a few non-explicit scenes of violence, on the whole, it is generally family friendly. The movie’s art style (based on that of French cartoonist Jacque Tardi) is also refreshingly different. April is not the cutesy girl we might expect in an American or Japanese animation. She has a distinctive Eastern European or Jewish look. Though April and her mother are both brilliant scientists, the story has no heavy-handed message against the patriarchy. However, it does feature an interesting conflict among the anti-science conspirators featuring maternalistic authority versus “toxic masculinity.” I won’t say more about that because I don’t want to give any spoilers.

With the plethora of animated movies that Hollywood churns out like potato chips, it’s not surprising this one won critical acclaim and awards, including Best Feature Film at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in Annecy, France. However, we didn’t hear about it until it appeared on Netflix. It’s a shame this movie didn’t get more attention in the USA. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

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