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There's more to life than chemistry.

"And so, Emperor Napoleon the 3rd meets his untimely end, leaving behind a bereaved nation and a son who the very next day is crowned Napoleon the 4th. Less warlike than his father, the young emperor signs a peace treaty with Prussia thus averting war and changing the course of history by securing the French throne for a long line of Napoleons. Several years later, the world's leading scientists begin to mysteriously disappear as if into thin air. Despite the best efforts of police across the globe, no one can discover why or where they've gone: Branly, Einstein, Hertz, Marconi, Nobel, Pasteur, and a host of other brilliant minds. Without its scientists, the world never sees the wonders they would have invented or discovered: no electricity, no radio, no television, no automobiles. Scientific progress comes to a halt."
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Paris, 1941. A family of scientists is on the brink of discovering a powerful longevity serum when suddenly a mysterious force abducts them, leaving their young daughter, April, behind. Ten years later, April (voiced by Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard) lives alone with her talking cat, Darwin, and carries on her family’s research in secret. But she soon finds herself at the center of a shadowy and far-reaching conspiracy, and on the run from government agents, bicycle-powered dirigibles, and cyborg rat spies.


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This animated film provides examples of:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Pops. While not as bad as many other examples, he gets so caught up in his excitement in working out the flying machine, and the energy it runs on, that he fails to notice that the prison is flooding.
  • The Alcatraz: Fort La-Latte, where the French Empire holds its captive scientist. It is a medieval fortress perched on a seaside cliff, updated with modern armaments. The scientists are held in a section that is not only deep underground, but below sea level.
  • Alternate History: Where the Franco-Prussian War never happened and where a string of serial kidnappings of brilliant scientists has left the world in a state of technological stagnation.
  • Animal Espionage: The villains use remote control pigeons and rats with attached cameras and microphones to spy on their targets.
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  • Awesome, but Impractical: Most of the 20th-century steam-powered technology including one-man bicycle dirigibles, enormous cable cars for mass transport, and large intercontinental bridges that take hours to drive on with slow sputtering coal cars.
  • Balcony Escape: April's parents attempt to escape from the secret police by climbing off the balcony and clambering across the outside of the cable car.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Not all of the kidnapped scientists live to be rescued, the talking lizards apparently all perish by either their own hands or the flames of the rocket exhaust, Darwin has to remain in the rocket to save the day, April never manages to find out how to make the Ultimate Serum work on humans, and it's left ambiguous as to whether or not Paul and Annette reconcile. However, the surviving inventors manage to advance technology to the point that it ends the Energy Wars, Pizoni is made head of the French Secret Service, April and Julius get married, civilization eventually coalesces into a Democratic Union, and in 2001, Darwin is found alive and well on the moon during a lunar expedition and enthusiastically tells (an aged, but still alive) April that he's coming home.
  • Bring Me My Brown Pants: After nearly falling off the statue of Napoleon III, Julius comments that he might need to change his underwear.
  • Cain and Abel: Chimene and Rodrigue. Chimene stands for progress and technology, while Rodrigue wants to conquer the surface world and enslave the planet.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The snow globe (or so it seems) and, later, test tube filled with water, both containing the Immortality formula.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Julius' skill at pickpocketing is first used rather innocuously when he steals food from Pizoni's plate, then more seriously when he helps April evading the man she stole chemicals from and finally for swapping the test tube containing the serum with one containing water.
  • Cool Old Guy: Pops. He evades the French Imperial Police at 60, is 70 in the present-day portion of the film, and survives long enough after that to become one of the world's first astronauts despite his advanced age.
  • Cowboy Cop: Pizoni doesn't seem to care much for rules and procedures. When he gets demoted and is expressly forbidden from trying to capture scientists, he continues to pursue April and her grandfather on a personal vendetta, despite these orders. To this end, he springs a thief from prison and uses him as a spy, and even conspires with him to keep April from getting caught in her own illegal activities since this would interfere with his own goals.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Pops. His hidden mansion, for starters, transforming into an incredible submarine, complete with voice recording on how to operate it and guidebook. Pops often uses his knowledge readily in more than one escape throughout the film.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Of the Steampunk genre. Yes, the fashions can be elegant and the mechanisms ornate, but industrial-level consumption of coal and wood is a finite venture and the continued use of such fuel sources has filled the air with soot and brought societal progress to a crawl.
  • Defecting for Love: Julius works for Pizoni, until he falls in love with April.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: As sort of an Establishing Character Moment for the entire French society at that time, early on we see an unspecified little girl singing, in a disturbingly cheerful and innocent tone laced with Patriotic Fervor, about the French Empire's plans to violently plunder North America of its resources. Rampant classism is also seen, with a voice over the railcar's PA system casually reminding the 3rd-class passengers that they are forbidden from speaking to the other passengers.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: April. At first, she's extremely reluctant to bond with anyone but Darwin. She slowly warms up to Julius during the course of the story and ends up fairly sociable ( falling in love with Julius and discovering that her family is still alive certainly helped).
  • The Determinator: Pops, April, Pizoni, Darwin, and Paul.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: April really shouldn't have fiddled with Pops' prototype (especially as he had already told Darwin to keep his paws off it). Activating it causes a surge of electrical energy that allows the villains to home in on her location.
  • Dramatic Irony: Played for Laughs somewhat darkly in the epilogue, where a television announcer seems to believe that the discovery of oil has solved all the world's energy problems forever.
  • Dumb Muscle: Chimene and Rodrigue's extremely infantile army of their own offspring.
  • Dystopia: Sure, in this timeline Europe avoided the two World Wars, but it is at the price of a much longer war with America over the last existing trees, and then due to all the soot everywhere you need a dust mask to walk in the street without falling sick (and only the rich can afford them). Scientists are arrested on sight to work for the military, meaning progress is stagnant (though that is not the only reason).
  • Enemy Civil War: One erupts very abruptly at the end of the film. When Rodrigue betrays Chimène and kills her, he demands that the children follow him. Half of them do, but the other half side with their fallen mother and the two sides immediately start fighting each other. April and company are able to escape in the confusion.
  • Enforced Technology Levels: The lizards have been kidnapping scientists who were at the verge of discovering electricity and anyone else they've deemed brilliant enough so as to keep their inventions for themselves.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Napoleon III wanted Dr. Franklin to create him an unstoppable army of Super Soldier animals with which to crush Prussia. He was not happy when Dr. Franklin came up with Uplifted Animals instead.
  • Explosive Stupidity: Napoleon III's bodyguard starts firing his gun in a laboratory full of unknown volatile chemicals with explosive consequences.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: When April is being chased through the Paris Fair, Julius grabs her and kisses her: convincing her pursuer that this is not the girl he was chasing.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: The government of the French Empire. They're willing to go to war to plunder North America of its resources, but seem to have little chance of actually winning that war. They're willing to imprison scientists and force them to develop technology for the war effort, but are not actually very good at catching them, and most of the ones they have are not very competent. Their efficiency in capturing scientists and the quality of the ones they've collected totally pales in comparison to that of the lizards.
  • Fat Bastard: Pizoni is a fairly unpleasant, if comical, fellow.
  • Five-Finger Discount: The teenaged April is first seen shoplifting candy and books from street stalls for Darwin.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: While all the other Franklins are more or less chemists, Pops has a brilliant mechanical mind with a MacGyvering mindset in tough situations.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Unable to lock its altimeter in place, Darwin opts to stay behind on the rocket to keep it on course so that it explodes in space instead of on Earth. He survives, but winds up marooned on the Moon for decades.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: April and Julius dangle one of the lizard guards off a catwalk by his tail until he divulges the location of April's father.
  • Historical-Domain Character: The lizards refer to some of their captive scientists as "Fermi", "Fleming", and "Korolev" - presumably they're referring to Enrico Fermi, Alexander Fleming, and Sergei Korolev.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Chimene and Rodrigue, the uplifted lizards, seem to believe this, and this belief is the motivation behind all their actions. Subverted, as Rodrigue's actions and the subsequent civil war amongst their offspring prove that the sapient lizards are actually no different and have the same capacity for moral failing as humans.
  • Karma Houdini: Not only does Pizoni never get any lasting comeuppance for his actions, he also takes the credit for foiling the lizards and saving the scientists which gets him promoted to head of the French Secret Service by the Emperor himself.
  • Karmic Death: Napoleon III is killed after he orders his minions to fire at Chimene and Rodrigue in a lab full of volatile chemicals.
  • Immortality Inducer: The "Ultimate Serum" sought by April's family for generations, which, although not named as such, conceptually resembles the fabled Elixir of Life that was once sought by alchemists.
  • Indy Hat Roll: Darwin runs at full speed and then dives, flattening himself out, to pass under the rapidly closing blast door of the rocket.
  • Info Dump: A rather lengthy worldbuilding narration of the world and how it begins to turn into Alternate History once a war is avoided.
  • Inspector Javert: Pizoni to April, although thankfully he is very incompetent about it.
  • Intellectual Animal: Darwin the cat knows geography, philosophy, and asks for more books to read even on his deathbed.
  • Irony: Chimene looks down on mankind for its violent and warlike nature (a trait she believes she is exempt from) only to be slain as a result of a coup shortly before her species winds up wiping itself out over an idiotic feud.
  • Landmarking the Hidden Base: April's secret lab is located inside a giant statue of Napoleon III in the middle of Paris. The lizards' rocket base is underneath the Eiffel Towers.
  • Lovable Rogue: Julius. Pickpocket, Love Interest, and The Mole for Pizoni.
  • Male Gaze: A light example. After April accidentally switches on a Van De Graff-like electrical generator, causing lightning to flash brightly and strike randomly, Julius comes to the rescue, only to be stopped when he sees April, as the lightning flashes cause her lower body to be silhouetted in her dress. Despite getting zapped, Julius still awakens with a wan smile.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The kidnapped scientists have a joint moment of this when it looks like the rocket they all worked on is going to kill all life on Earth's surface.
  • My Instincts Are Showing: Darwin is a well-educated cat, who enjoys reading philosophy books, knows geography and apparently tutored April for most of her youth. Show him a mouse, however, and he won't hesitate a second before pouncing on it and lethally biting it in the neck, no matter if it was somehow transmitting a message from April's long-lost father.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Pizoni's attempt to arrest the Franklins not only prevents half of them from getting captured by the lizards, but his insistence on catching them a decade later lays the groundwork for their reunion and the prevention of human extinction.
  • Oh, Crap!: Rodrigue once he realizes the wound Julius inflicted on him isn't healing.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Pops is not only able to carry on his father's work on chemistry and biology, but also able to build a mechanical house, (re)discover electricity and understand how to pilot a plane simply by looking at it.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Pops is trying to get the guidance system on the flying machine working. He eventually whacks it, and somehow activates the welcome video for the kidnapped scientists. Later Julius is attempting to get the ray gun he took off a lizard working. After flicking through several setting ineffectively, he thumps the top of the gun. This causes the gun to fire and blast off the arm of the guard's exoskeleton.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Gas Mask: It is established that it is not safe to walk the streets on heavy pollution days without a respirator mask. However, only the wealthiest in society can afford them. This does afford Pops an excellent disguise, as no one looks twice at an elderly man walking around in a gas mask.
  • Red Herring: The serum injected into the snow globe wasn't the concoction that saved Darwin's life.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: In the epilogue, it is revealed to have been discovered that the Ultimate Serum doesn't work on humans. April's parents' original goal in creating the formula, to rid society of all illness and death, is thus not achieved, and ultimately the timeline ends up converging to something similar to real life, which is definitely improved from its previous state but still far from being a perfect deathless utopia.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: After losing the Franklins, Pizoni is demoted from inspector to agent, and told that from now on he is not allowed anywhere near scientists. He is restricted to arresting tramps and vegetable thieves.
  • Rubber-Band History: Downplayed, but when all is said and done society has re-converged much closer to how it is in the real timeline, compared to how it was earlier.
  • Shipper on Deck: Darwin seems to ship April and Julius, even after Julius is revealed to be The Mole.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Pizoni walks out of the third act just a few minutes before all the betrayals, deaths, and calamities start piling up.
  • Shout-Out: When Pops is in the military lab, there's a steam-powered tank in the background that suspiciously resembles a Dalek.
    • There are lots of shout-outs to Jacques Tardi'snote  other works in this movie, mainly Adèle Blanc-Sec: the pterodactyl from one of Adèle's earliest adventures appears in the opening credits, Gustave's schematics for the super-soldier are taken straight from the comics, and you can see Adèle herself in the background of a few shots.
  • Steam Punk: Obviously. It does take place in an alternate 20th century where the steam engine is the most advanced technology, after all.
  • Take My Hand: As the rocket blasts off, April has to run back to the elevator as the gantry gives way underneath her. The last section falls away before she reaches the elevator. As she tumbles into space, her outstretched hand is grabbed by her father. Then the camera pulls back to reveal that he is dangling almost completely out of the elevator and being held in by Julius.
  • Uplifted Animal: Early, failed attempts at making the Ultimate Serum result in this on the test animals. Chimene and Rodrigue the lizards and their children are examples of this, as is Darwin the cat.
  • Walking Disaster Area: Pizoni is known as a "one-man catastrophe" to his superiors.
  • Was It All a Lie?: April's reaction to the reveal that Julius is The Mole.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Chimene and Rodrigue (at first, in his case), as well as the scientists working for them (April's father excepted).
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": April's cat is named Darwin, after Charles Darwin. As a member of a family of renegade scientists who refuse to work for the Empire, it is not surprising that she names her pet after a great scientist.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of the lizards not slain during the civil war, or incinerated by the rocket launch is unknown.
  • Women Are Wiser: Chimene is more pragmatic than Rodrigue and is constantly telling him to be more gentle when interrogating and searching for April.
  • X-Ray Sparks: Happens every time someone is electrocuted. First seen with the gendarmes and then April's parents on the cable car, and later with Julius in Pops' mansion, and then various people in Rodrigue and Chimène's base.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Heavier-than-air flight has not been invented except by the scientists kidnapped by the lizards, who therefore have access to somewhat futuristic planes, so zeppelins tend to crop up here and there, including on the gondolas of Ferris wheels.
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