Movie review: April And The Extraordinary World combines the works of Miyazaki and Herge

Sumptuous details abound in the alternate universe of April And The Extraordinary World.
Sumptuous details abound in the alternate universe of April And The Extraordinary World.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / ANIMATION

APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD (PG)

106 minutes/Opens tomorrow

3.5/5 stars

The story: Famous scientists mysteriously disappear throughout history, leading the world to be stuck in the era of the Industrial Revolution, when wood and coal are the main sources of power. When April's (Angela Galuppo) scientist parents are suddenly killed, she attempts to carry on their research in secret in Paris, until she uncovers a much larger conspiracy.

If legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and Belgian cartoonist Herge of Tintin fame had collaborated to make a film, it would probably look something like this.

Marrying Miyazaki's fantastically weird inventions with Herge's ligne claire, or "clear line" drawing style, this story, taken from French comics artist Jacques Tardi's work, is as vividly told as it is beautiful to look at.

Some of the original and wonderful machines created here include a house that grows skinny legs to walk and swim.

Fans of steampunk - the literary genre combining cutting-edge technology with aesthetics inspired by 19th-century steam-powered machinery - will have the most fun with this film, taking in every nut and bolt of the massive overhead cable carriages running across Paris, and the loud tinks of every crazy metal contraption designed for the household.

Given how sumptuous the details are in every scene, the alternate universe here, even as far from reality as it is, is conceivably real.

However, the story suffers when it piles on the same amount of detail - the overstuffed script tries too hard to explain potential loopholes.

To be sure, this French-made, English-dubbed animation was never produced with a younger audience in mind.

From references to the Industrial Revolution and the Franco- Prussian War, to jokes about famed scientists Albert Einstein and Guglielmo Marconi, it is a complex and intelligent film that requires some understanding of history and science to fully appreciate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline 'Vivid story with beautiful visuals'. Print Edition | Subscribe