It's 1941 but France is trapped in the nineteenth century, governed by steam and Napoleon V, where scientists vanish mysteriously. Avril (Marion Cotillard), a teenage girl, goes in search of her missing scientist parents.
In 1941, the world is radically different from the one we know from history books. Geopolitics has developed strangely: Napoleon V rules France and, for the last 70 years, scholars have been mysteriously disappearing, depriving mankind of their inventions. Without radio, television, electricity, aviation, and the combustion engine, the world is mired in outdated technology, dozing in the previous century's knowhow dominated by coal and steam. In this bizarre universe, Avril (Marion Cotillard), a teenage girl, Darwin (Philippe Katerine), her talking cat, Pops (Jean Rochefort), her grandfather, and Julius (Marc-André Grondin), a young scoundrel and police informer, go off in search of Avril's parents, two of the missing scientists. The quartet will face many dangers and mysteries in this strange new Rigged World.Written by
Avril and the Extraordinary World is a nice French animated film set in an alternative past that diverts from real historical events starting from 1870. The result is a steam-punk world, dependent on coal first, on tree logging then, a world in constant war and where scientists are used as weapons.
The film has a great start and even the initial credits are beautifully presented. The mood is excellent, and the world depicted is wonderfully imaginative. Although this is mostly a fun and adventure story, there are some interesting environmental messages embedded in the story, as well as a light reflection on the role of science and scientists in Society. The character of Darwin, the talking cat, is utterly charming. The backgrounds are stunning as well as some of the machinery depicted. I found the second half of the movie really engaging, entertaining and with a cohesive story, witty and fun, and the ending was also lovely.
Having said that, this was a disappointing film for me, certainly not what I expected beforehand especially taking into account the raving reviews. There are many reasons for that. 1/ The story needed of better characters. I found Inspector Pizoni unnecessary for most of the film, and too much of a stereotype to be of any interest. Most of the main characters, Avril included, are totally unlikable, frigid emotionally and I couldn't care less about them. 2/ The story needed of a better tempo. The first half of the film is painfully slow and unfocused, and I found myself bored as it seemed to be leading nowhere. However, the film leads somewhere, it is just that part of the film was wandering around unnecessarily. 3/ The story needed of a bit of more humour and fun. At times seems to take itself too seriously! 4/ The movement was chunky some times, very good at some others; the lighting and chiaroscuro were almost non-existent, and the characters were not polished visually. The film was a bit flat visually to me.
The film is enjoyable overall, but it didn't do it for me.
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