The French, steampunk anime April and the Extraordinary World is the rousing, science-based adventure you wanted Disney’s Tomorrowland to be. It’s simultaneously an exciting roller coaster ride, while also stimulating your intellect by presenting a fascinating alternate history.

In April and the Extraordinary World, history didn’t quite turn out the way we remember it. Napoleon Bonaparte was killed in a freak accident long before his conquests could continue, and the subsequent fallout deprived the world of many of the scientific advancements we now enjoy. There’s no electricity, television or telephones—instead we’ve become a coal, charcoal- and steam-based culture, which means people put a premium on a whole other set of resources, and this sets the world off in very different direction.

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In the middle of it all, there’s April, a young girl (voiced as an adult by Marion Cotillard) whose scientist parents were killed, leaving her to fend for herself. Years later, the mystery of her parents’ fate is brought up once again, and this sends her on an adventure, with the fate of the world at stake.

That adventure includes all kinds of technological wonders, action sequences, talking animals and more. And all of this densely-packed film unfolds in a tight, rousing, 90-minute package. The actions of the story push the characters ahead and slowly unravel the mysteries of this sprawling world, one that has surprises at every corner.

Those surprises are largely influenced by authors such as Jules Verne and Douglas Adams, along with filmmakers like George Lucas and Hayao Miyazaki. It’s all kind of familiar, but the fact it’s a familiar story set in a world with less technology raises questions about our dependence on tech. This leads to a certain amount of introspection about the proper use of technology, in the middle of this otherwise propulsive tale.

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April and the Extraordinary World is based on the work of French comic artist Jacques Tardi. Its directors, Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci, worked on classic animated movies like Persepolis and The Adventures of Tintin. If you imagine the beauty and meaning of the former, mixed with the energy and wonder of the latter, filtered through classic French comics, you kind of have an idea of what this wonderful movie is like.

April and the Extraordinary World played as part of Fantastic Fest 2015 in Austin Texas. It opens later this year in France, Canada, Belgium and the US in Spring 2016. Seek it out.


Contact the author at germain@io9.com.

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