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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.24%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 24.24%

4 reviews, 9 user ratings

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by U.J. Lessing

"Faster than a one-hour dry cleaner…."
1 stars

I consider my tastes eclectic. They are rarely popular and tend to run the gamut. Like most people with varied tastes, at times, I suffer for other people’s art. However, when confronted with Japanese animation geared towards adults, frankly, I experience the same kind of confusion as when I see a sports team bumper stickers affixed to an SUV.

I don’t get it.

Steamboy is the latest sci-fi epic to come from Japan. The most expensive anime ever produced, it boasts 180,000 drawings and 400 CG cuts. Director, Katsuhiro Ôtomo has devoted a large chunk of a decade toward realizing his vision, and the film is a visual flurry of activity.

Yet, with all this effort and hard work, Steamboy has the steadiness of a hot iron with a faulty cable.

What went wrong? For starters, Steamboy is the newest entry into what is undoubtedly the worst genre of film ever: retro science-fiction. Those three words bring terror to the hearts and minds of producers everywhere. Stories from the retro science-fiction genre takes place more than 100 years ago, and portray a past that has wondrous and massive technology that we don’t have today. Thanks to retro science-fiction, we have such wonderful films as Wild Wild West, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Around the World in 80 Days (the film, not the book.)

The plot follows an annoying scamp (voiced by Anna Paquin) who happens to be an inventor just like his dad (Alfred Molina) and grandfather (Patrick Stewart). His life in Victorian England is rather quiet until he gets a hold of a mysterious metal ball that contains the power of compressed steam.

His father wants the ball so that he can power war machines. His grandfather wants the ball hidden where it cannot be used for evil. The result is a battle that disrupts London’s Great Exhibition and threatens the city itself.

Ôtomo seems less concerned with developing rich characters and a sensible story and more concerned with animating destruction, explosions and enormous technological juggernauts. Steamboy has no dramatic tension or exhilarating moments. It’s just one detonation or eruption after another.

The technology is carefully captured, but there’s no logic in the way the machines themselves work. This makes for a great drinking game, but not for a great piece of entertainment. (Every time someone turns a valve, you have to take a drink. Every time a pipe bursts, you have to take a drink, every time a hand in an indicator moves to the red… well you get the idea.)

Steamboy isn’t interested in people, reality or emotions. Its sole obsession is with big machines that go boom, and that’s techno-fetishism at it’s worst. In Japanese anime like Steamboy, where equipment and machines are revered at that level, humanity tends to get steamed away like a stain on a silk tie.

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originally posted: 03/22/05 15:36:53
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival For more in the 2006 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/31/08 Bobby Excellent! Visually stunning, it is a wonderful inspiration to steampunk enthusiasts. 5 stars
3/19/07 Czechpointcharlie Steampunk anime; beautifully rendered, and lots of fun. 4 stars
12/10/06 Jim Terrific animation and visuals, interesting Steampunk plot 5 stars
5/18/06 Pokejedservo A truly fine piece of animated cinema indeed. 5 stars
1/26/06 Sean Hartlieb Spectacular and mind - blowing. A worthy anime to Akira. 5 stars
11/17/05 billy bob its was a piece of sh*T 1 stars
11/17/05 boby willis I think it was pretty boring and knot enough action 1 stars
3/23/05 Brian ..and Ring 2 gets a wide release when this slips under the radar? 5 stars
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  18-Mar-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 26-Jul-2005



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