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Another STEAMBOY Review Comes Rolling In!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

Harry saw this one at the Austin Film Festival, so I have no choice but to hate and envy him now. Of course, I’ve seen THE INCREDIBLES, so he hates and envies me. Isn’t being a film geek fun?!

Seriously, this is a great review, and I’m itching to lay eyes on this flick as soon as possible:

Hi Guys,

I've always wanted to send you guys a review, but being in Australia it seems it takes about ten years for most films to get across the pond. Well I’ve just come from a press screening of Steamboy here in sunny Bris-Vegas and feel compelled to write about what I saw and heard.

Wow, what a ride! The animation is absolutely gorgeous, with probably the best blending of cel and cgi animation I’ve seen (except maybe Blood: The Last Vampire). Generally when these formats are mixed, the cgi elements stick out like dogs balls and it takes you out of the movie. Here, the textures and colours in the cgi and cel blend nearly perfectly to outstanding effect. Set in Victorian England, the film adopts a very sombre palette which effectively captures the era and setting. The production design is probably the biggest star of this film. There is so much going on that it’s almost too much to take in – steam powered machines, cogs, levers, valves and all manner of inventions populate the background (and foreground) and become an integral part of the story.

I’m sure by now you’ve all read the plot synopsis: Ray Steam receives a mysterious Steam Ball from his grandfather and is instructed to keep it out of the hands of the bad guys’, who have something nefarious planned for the impending World Science Exhibition. The plot is simple, the ideas are grand and the destruction is huge. Roland Emmerich could learn a thing or two here about how to destroy shit on a grand scale.

It’s not all wine and roses though, as I did have some problems with the film. Firstly, it seemed only to have two pace settings: 1) talky philosophical exposition, and 2) Heartstopping action. It suffers the same problem that many “philosophical” asian films do in that the dialogue explicitly states the character’s philosophical viewpoints rather than showing it in their actions or by hiding it under a layer of sub-text. The philosophy here isn’t the sub-text, it’s the text itself. That always annoys me.

The action is brilliantly executed, there is an early set-piece when Ray first escapes with the steamball that had my heart in my throat. The final set piece though is far too long. There is so much going on that I became inured to it after a while and it lost some of its thrill.

My only other gripe (albeit minor) is with character names. Having the main characters’ names Steam seemed awfully contrived and obvious. The other one that stuck in my craw was a character named Scarlett O’Hara. Why? There must be a gazillion names to come up with.

Apart from these flaws this is still a brilliant film, and one of the best anime’s I’ve seen (which has been a lot lately – thankyou eastern Eye). It is great on the big screen and the sound design and score do justice to the visuals. What strikes me about this film is how it seems to have very western sensibilities. It is a grand adventure with universal themes and doesn’t come off as parochial and hard to follow as many asian films do – which should please western audiences. It has a beautiful orchestral score that soars at just the right moments, which also adds to that western feel.

All in all, a great film. I can see this one being much more accessible to general audiences than your standard manga fare.


If you use this call me happyfat.

Between this and HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, it’s going to be an interesting fall for anime freaks.

"Moriarty" out.

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