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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 Lybarger

"Full Steam Ahead"
4 stars

For a movie that took nearly nine years to make, Japanese animation director Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s ‘Steamboy’ moves at a surprisingly breathless pace. Ôtomo, who’s responsible for ‘Akira,’ may not work quickly, but his slow cooked-offering delivers more than its share of thrills and wonder.

In many ways, ‘Steamboy’ is an usually gutsy offering. It is possibly the most expensive animated film from Japan to date, but thankfully all of the money is on the screen, and Ôtomo and Sadayuki Murai have written a script that makes the film more than simple eye candy.

Ambivalence about technology has been a constant theme in Ôtomo’s work (certainly in ‘Akira’ and in his screenplay for ‘Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis’) and in Anime in general, but ‘Steamboy’ feature’s an intriguingly unique setting. Instead of being set in the near future or in a post-Apocalyptic world, Ôtomo opts for Victorian England.

Young Ray Steam (voiced by Anna Paquin in the English version) would probably like to be a scientist like his father Edward Steam (Alfred Molina) and his grandfather Lord Steam (Patrick Stewart). Like his ancestors, Ray is a bit of an outcast. The other lads make fun of him because his frequently absent elders are off doing mysterious experiments of questionable usefulness.

Ray soon discovers that his father and grandfather are now locking horns over their new invention and finds himself caught between them. The two have developed a device called a steamball that can be used to generate massive amounts of power from its tiny space.

Grandfather is doing everything he can to get it back from his father who has teamed with a shady American foundation determined to use it for weapons. If misused, the steamball could potentially turn the prosperous 19th century London into a ghost town.

While ‘Akira’ demonstrated that Ôtomo could orchestrate spectacle, ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Steamboy’ prove that he can handle human relationships and even raise some intriguing ideas. Neither Ray’s father nor his grandfather have all the answer, and each represents a faction that has its own best interests rather than the common good at heart. In their attempts to undercut each other, both men might harm others in their feud.

Even if all ‘Steamboy’ had to offer was visual overkill, it would still be breathtaking. Victorian England is lovingly recreated, and Ôtomo and his collaborators come up with dozens of nifty steam-powered gadgets that are just as imaginative as the mystical creations he came up with in ‘Akira.’

The new dub is adequate and does try to replicate the sound of the Queen’s English as it sounded in the 1880s, but the actors sometimes sound stiff and inhibited.

Still, with over 188,000, sketches the animation is eye popping, and thankfully Ôtomo is a good enough storyteller to keep ‘Steamboy’ from overheating.

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originally posted: 03/18/05 15:28:12
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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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