Will science and technology be our salvation? Of course, the obvious response is: has it yet? For every advancement we make through science, there is a price to be paid or an abuse of that discovery. But what if our technology didn’t evolve as it did the last century and a half? April and the Extraordinary World creates an alternate history beginning in 1870 in which the great advances in science since that time never happened. The animated film is a joint French/Belgian/Canadian production. I screened the film in French with subtitles, but some theaters will also be showing it dubbed in English.
The story begins on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War. When Emperor Napoleon III visits a scientist working on a serum that will make his soldiers invincible, a catastrophe changes the course of history. The war never happens, but the world’s best scientists begin disappearing. Without their discoveries, the world is stuck in the Age of Steam. Coal and wood are the main fuels. There are no electricity or internal combustion engines, no radio or telephones.
Many years later, the scientist’s descendants are working on the same serum with the intent of making life better for everyone. But they must do it in secret since the few remaining scientists are being conscripted to serve the Empire. When the police find them and try to arrest them, only young April manages to escape along with her talking cat Darwin (the result of one of the earlier experiments.) Ten years pass and April is now working on her own to perfect the serum. She meets Julius, a young pickpocket who is trying to locate her for the police, and they are soon on an adventure to avoid capture, but instead discover that her parents are still alive in a far off jungle where all the scientists have been taken. The search for invincibility continues. But will it be used for the good of humankind or to subjugate people?
Throughout the film, science and technology seem to be viewed as the answer to our problems—and the lack of science has left the world without advancement in all the ways we are used to. The use of coal and charcoal has left the world full of soot. So maybe science has made things better. But what of this Ultimate Serum that April and her family before her has been searching for? Will it be a cure all, or will it fall into the wrong hands like so much other science? Has our technology really made things that much better? At the end of the film (in nearly the current day) we hear a newscaster bragging about the energy crisis being solved by the seemingly inexhaustible supply of oil. We know that our use of technology has led to even greater pollution than in the “Age of Steam” and that we are in danger of drastically harming the whole of our planet. It is not science and technology that will save us, but the wisdom of how to use those things for the benefit of all.
Photos courtesy of Gkids