So it has come to my attention that comic book movies are all the rage during the summer. Heck, they are so popular that it is for these films are evolving into a multi-billion industry. Captain America: Civil War and Deadpool are undeniably fun films but I also enjoy the films that are made in reaction to said comic-book films. At the 2016 Florida Film Festival, I had the pleasure of watching two French animated films that play with the style and tone colorful of comic book adventures that provide nice alternative programming to the latest blockbusters.
Phantom Boy is a fun little film that is unique hybrid between 1920s French serials and modern super heroism drawn in the style of a children’s book. The film is a about a young cancer-stricken boy who can become a ghost whenever he sleeps. He uses his powers to fly around New York City and spy on his family but once a Picasso-faced fiend hacks the city he joins a cop and reporter in order to save the day. The story is a brisk adventure at heart but it becomes very dramatic when it explores the child’s disease. One scene where the boy uses his power to spy on his mom right after she visit him in the hospital is rather gut wrenching. The drama itself is a bit formulaic, however this does not diminish the classic thrills and humor that Phantom Boy provides in abundance. Regardless whether one prefers Judex or Iron Man, this is the type of film that can recall the magic of playing masked vigilantes as a kid.
April and The Extraordinary World
In contrast, April and The Extraordinary World is a rather ambitious piece of odd and marvelous spectacle. Based on the comic stories of Jacques Tardi, the film is a hand-drawn adventure that takes place in the 1940s, yet the world still fueled by coal and steam, and famous scientists are going missing. When a conspiracy reaches April, aspiring scientist and hero, enlists the help of a thief named Julius and her talking cat Darwin (it makes sense in context) and goes on a wonderfully strange journey to save the day. The story is too hectic to for a summary to do it justice but what is clear that the film is pure sci-fi bliss, loaded with steam-punk machinery, laser beams, and two Eiffel Towers all sketched with vibrant style that evokes Tintin, Dick Tracy and Studio Ghibli. The storytelling is also stellar as it can dynamically blends comedy and intense action without losing rhythm.
The escapism alone makes the film worth seeing yet what is so fascinating how it is anchored on humanity’s relationship with science. It is shown that science is not inherently evil, but a tool that could be used for violent means by the fearful and ignorant. However when treated with care and respect, science can heal the world. It is a refreshing take on a classic Sci-fi dilemma, especially in a time when even the best superhero films still use science stuff as a means to heroically punch people down.
As of this writing, neither film is out on video or streaming yet, which makes them difficult to find for now, I’ll try to keep track of release schedules. However, this is also a good time as any to check out your local independent theaters or film festivals where films like Phantom Boy and April and the Extraordinary World thrive. Sure one has to deal with subtitles but these are just as fun, as any superhero film released this year, if not more. Besides, buying tickets to a family outing at an indie theater is a far better deal than a Blu-ray of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: Ultimate Edition.
|If at first you don't succeed, drag it out for 30 more minutes.|