HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: April and the Extraordinary World
HTS Overall Score:75
Steampunk has really picked up (dare I say it)…..steam.....(there I said it) over the last few years and seems to have risen from the proverbial grave. For those of you not in the know, steampunk is a fantasy subgenre that deals with inventions and “futuristic” technology is created and run purely by the energy created from coal and steam. Usually this involves future or past generations running under the assumption that we never discovered electricity and were forced to create all of our technology using that ancient power source. “April and the Extraordinary World” brings this classic fantasy genre to life in the animated realm, telling a tale of “what if” our history had been changed years ago by someone in the past, turning our future into something completely alien and unimaginable.
Back in the days of Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor himself ordered a scientist to create him the perfect super soldier serum, only to have it end in failure, with the demise of Napoleon. However, the family of scientists who were involved in the attempted the effort have been in hiding, working at it for generations. Now it’s 1931 and the world is much different than what we know of that year. The world is ruled by steam and coal, with the empire of France a dictatorship that is still ruled over by the Napoleon family. Scientists are ONLY allowed to ply their craft in order to make weapons for the empire, meaning the Franklin family (the descendants of that original family of scientists) are criminals for trying to complete their ancestor’s work in the name of progress. Set upon by the French police, the entire family is forced to flee, with grandpa franklin (Tony Robinow) vanishing into the night, and a strange lightning cloud gulping up the mother and father. Now that means April is the only scientist left in the family, and is forced into hiding after the police raid.
Now, 10 years later the world is still under the heavy hand of Napoleon IV, and the rest of the world is living under the disgusting pollution that is created by the coal fueled world. April’s talking cat, Darwin (Tony Hale), who was given voice through previous serum experiments, and herself are working tirelessy to recreate the serum that her parents were working on, only to be interrupted by a young boy named Julius (Tod Fennell) who just so happens to be working for the disgraced police inspector who lost her family. Forced into hiding once more, April finds the long lost formula, kick starting a wild adventure that will send her halfway across the nation of France and into contact with a race of beings who are using scientists from all over the world to create a utopia for the wellbeing of the world.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76193[/img]While the script for “April and the Extraordinary World” is not exactly a masterpiece, the imagination level is off the charts. The story is straight forward and simple. A young girl is trying to finish her parents work and stay out of the clutches of a dictatorial government who wants everything for their weapons projects. We’ve seen it a million times in other films and sometimes done better too. HOWEVER, the amount of visual and mental imagination is simply superb. The world of 1931 Paris is so much different than what we know about it from history, and rivals many science fiction films for sheer scope and skill used in world building. Fans of the Steampunk genre will love many of the classic inventions, as well as the different twist on the serum used to create a super race. Same goes for the mysterious race that controls the missing scientists and their end goal. I won’t spoil that particular plot point for anyone, as it is rather vital to the surprise later on, but suffice to say it’s definitely unique in the execution.
The acting is top notch across the board, with great performances by Paul Giamotti as the disgraced police inspector, as well as Angela Galuppo as April herself. The characters and voices match up really well, despite the French dub being more “original”, all except for the voice of Darwin. For some reason Darwin’s upbeat and lilting vocal patterns felt off the whole time, making it feel like more of a children’s film than it really was. Which is rather surprising as even though it IS a children’s film, much of the interactions and incidents in the film come across as a little more adult in many ways. Deaths happen, violence happens (although in mild amounts) and despite the simplistic storyline, there is a distinct butterfly effect subplot that is woven in amongst the adventure story of April and Darwin.
Rated PG for action/peril including gunplay, some thematic elements and rude humor
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76201[/img]“April and the Extraordinary World” comes to life on home video with a very nice looking 1.78:1 AVC encode that manages to impress at every turn. The hand animated film looks very nicely drawn on the screen, with good line representation as well as luscious colors. The saturation level of the colors are never overly done, but rather sticks to milder greens and reds and blues (with some brighter colored moments like Paul’s shirt). The first half of the film sticks to very bleak and dark contrasts of brown, black and greys, but the latter half of the movie is much more colorful as April and her crew find their way to the underground jungle. Black levels are strong and deep, with only a few of the dark night sky moments showing off some intermittent banding. Fine detail is great, and even though the show isn’t animated in the most revealing way, everything looks well replicated for the home video release.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76209[/img]The disc comes with the original French track in 5.1 DTS (sadly no lossless), while the English translation and dubbing gets a full power 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. While I would have liked the French track in lossless, I was actually surprised to hear that I liked the English dub a little better. I am normally an audio purist, but there is something about the English track that just sounded more natural to my ears. Well, except for the voice of Darwin, which for some reason sounded really childish in the English dub. Vocals are crisp and clear throughout, with strong centering in the center channel, while the rest of the track is done with much aplomb. The LFE is never overwhelming or over powered, but still comes out and plays for a few moments, especially the more bombastic incidences in the film, like the house escape or the rocket blasting off. Surround channels are pretty mild, but they do show off some good ambiance in the jungle, as well as the hissing, whirring and thumping of Paris.
• The Origin of The Extraordinary World
• April and the Extraordinary World: Official U.S. Trailer
• More from GKIDS
“April and the Extraordinary World” is a fascinating take on the animated genre. Steampunk is a genre that is very rarely put into real life films, let alone animated ones, but little adventure is made all the more magical by its inclusion. The film’s story itself is fairly simplistic in design, but the magical world of steam and coal adds an energy and life to the movie that out paces the PG level story. April and Darwin are a treat, but the real treat is for the eyes, as all of the incredible devices from a myriad of steampunk inspired fiction is animated for our viewing pleasure. The ripple in a pond effect adds a nice depth to the tale, and while the movie is not a masterpiece, it is still a very entertaining piece of family entertainment. Audio and video are well within specs for an animated film, but sadly the extras are once again just a meager offering. Still recommended as a good watch.
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Philippe Katerine, Jean Rochefort
Directed by: Christian Desmares, Franck Ekinci
Written by: Franck Ekinci, Benjamin Legrand
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 2nd 2016
Buy April and the Extraordinary World On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Watch
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