The Inventor  (PG) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Jim Capobianco/Pierre-Luc Granjon, US/France/Ireland, 2023,
100  mins

Cast:  Stephen Fry, Matt Berry, Gauthier Battue, Daisy Ridley

Review by Carol Allen

The Inventor of the title is 16th century genius Leonardo da Vinci, whose range of interests and talents covered both the arts (Mona Lisa and The Last Supper) and the sciences – astrology, mathematics, architecture, and human zoology. 

A  man who  was remarkable for his time or indeed any time and an unusual subject for an animated film., whose story is told in a mixture of stop frame and drawn animation.   As voiced in the avuncular tones of Stephen Fry and visualised as a dumpy man with a generous Santa Claus beard he comes over as an interesting but not very charismatic character.  

The story, such as it is, deals with his conflict with the Pope (voiced by an amusingly apoplectic Matt Berry), after which he takes his talents to the court of Francis I (Gauthier Battue) in France, who initially supports Leonardo’s dream of building the Ideal City – one that is in harmony with nature, so today’s Greens might want to have another look at his designs.  However Francis’s only interest is that there should be a prominent statue of himself dominating the city, so he soon gets bored and turns back to his love of jousting and other manly sports.   

He even at some point has a competitive joust with England’s Henry VIII (Daniel Swan) – a long winded sequence which has nothing to do with Leonardo, who has meanwhile forged a friendship with Francis’s scientifically minded sister Princess Marguerite (Daisy Ridley).  

The scientist is also continuing with his dissection of human bodies in search of the location of the soul.   He doesn’t find that but he does produce some anatomically accurate drawings which cannot be bettered today.  His grave robbing antics also produce one of the film’s funnier sequences featuring two bewildered grave diggers wondering why the corpses they are supposed to be burying keep disappearing.   

It’s difficult to know who is the target audiences for this film. The animation is well executed but not very exciting, and there’s not enough fun or action for most children.  It could provide a useful introduction to the work of Leonardo for bright older children and adults wanting a reminder of the man’s achievements.  The illustrations taken from of the great artist/scientist’s work are certainly impressive.   But as a piece of animated story telling, it’s frankly rather dull.