[MA-SOC] Steamboy [was: Review on Amazon Japan]

erin at pop.netculture.org erin at pop.netculture.org
Mon Mar 21 13:12:37 EST 2005

I saw the subbed Steamboy this weekend and liked it a lot!  I'm totally 
going to go and see it again on the MA-SOC excursion on the 31st (plus I'm 
bringing a friend from out-of-town).  It is the 31st, right?

Without any spoilers, I'll try to give you my brief opinion:

Basically, if you like movies where people are pulling levers and turning 
valves, and pipes are bursting and gears are flying everywhere, you'll 
love Steamboy.  Likewise if you love shocked Englishmen, and steam punk 
adventures, you'll love Steamboy.

If you're expecting bloodspray and violence and beheadings, forget about 
it.  There's a conspicuous lack of blood in this movie.  There are violent 
situations galore, and plenty of opportunities for scalding burns or lost 
limbs that just don't happen.  That's why reviewers (and myself) are 
confused as to whether or not this is a children's film.  For the lack of 
bloody violence, it seems like it's meant for a younger audience.  It's 
almost as if someone is holding Otomo back.  In scene after scene thick 
metal cables snap off and whip around and ought to sever people in two, 
but it just doesn't happen.  I didn't really mind the lack of gore, since 
there were plenty of other good things happening in the film, but it does 
weigh heavily as a lack.

That said, throughout, Steamboy seems like a pretty ideal film for 
10-year-old boys.  I like a lot of 10-year-old boy stuff, so this film 
really appealed to me.

If you're looking for a strong morals though, don't bother.  Steamboy is a 
ridiculously amoral film.  None of the characters are "good".  At best, 
some of them are chaotic neutral (or lawful neutral).  You get the real 
sense that Otomo is jealous of Miyazaki's amoral villains and has tried to 
do something along those lines.    I can't say much more about this 
without spoilers, but it makes for a great discussion after the film, to 
say the least.

The film is also lacking a great score.  Akira had a magnificent score 
(that I've listened to way more often than I've seen the film), but 
Steamboy has a weirdly generic score.  It doesn't really stick out enough 
to be bothersome, but at the same time you feel the lack of a wonderful 
soundtrack.  Everything else is so well done that you can feel the 
composer dropping the ball.

Akira had a lot of moments of confusion (for me as a viewer).  Steamboy 
has some things about it which are a bit confusing and weird, but whereas 
Akira lumps most of the crazy at the end, Steamboy has laid out the crazy 
in a thin layer paced well over the course of the film.  

In many ways, Steamboy seems weirdly like a predecessor to Akira, in both 
it's historical setting and also in terms of Otomo's restraint.  But it is 
a worthy predecessor.

Steamboy has a lot of really terrific spectacle.  The backgrounds are 
wholly magnificent.  2-D and 3-D mesh nearly seamlessly.  The first 20 to 
30 minutes of the film have a spectacular action sequence that made me do 
cliched things, like "sit on the edge of my seat" and say it "took my 
breath away" and all that.

I can't say that the entire film kept up the pace of the first 20 minutes, 
or that the ending was 100% satisfactory - indeed, it seems to run a bit 
long.  I thought for sure it was well over two hours, even though it 
wasn't that long.  But I was never bored... in fact, I think I'd feel 
gypped if the movie was any shorter.

In conclusion, I'm seeing this again on the big screen for a sort of 
"Kiki's Delivery Service" effect - Kiki's, while not my favorite Miyazaki 
work, has awesome backgrounds that are worth seeing on the big screen.  
Steamboy has wonderful backgrounds that I want to be sure to see on the 
big screen (again).

On Sat, 19 Mar 2005, Richard Fung wrote:

> I haven't read Ebert's review on the movie, but it seems that the Japanese 
> audience's reaction is split as well, mainly due to a certain expectation 
> people hold for Otomo based on his past classic "Akira" (like people 
> associate Oshii w/ Ghost and the Patlabor movies) and they aren't sure 
> whether this movie is an anime aimed at kids (shounen) or a movie aimed at 
> young adults/auduts (seinen/otona), and the fact that the story and setting 
> remind them a litle of a certain Miyazaki work (title starts w/ a "L") or 
> Gainax's "Secret of Nadia".
> If you guys can read it, here's the link (the review by many is rather 
> diverse, so pretty objective),
> http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/dvd/B0001X9D3G/customer-reviews/ref=cm_cr_dp_2_1/249-3431794-2899508
> Also, some are disappointed at the voice acting, while it's not bad, it uses 
> actors instead of real voice actors, one of the reasons why I'm not crazy 
> about Miyazaki movies (wonder how good KimuTaku, Kimura Takuya, is in 
> "Howl's Moving Castle").  What's the deal w/ using actors for these big 
> movies anyway, maybe a roster of big names to draw attention.  
> Unfortunately, chances are even if they could marginally pull it off, 
> compared to professional seiyuu, actors most likely sound very bland and 
> lack the experience of voice acting (In HK, Miyazaki movies used actors too 
> and I hate that as a kid.  In Yu Yu's 2nd movie, the Chinese dub used an 
> actor for just Yusuke and it was a fiasco ^^).  Maybe I should hold off for 
> the American DVD release, since I'm broke anyway.  I just wish commercial US 
> release would include Japanese sub since Spanish and French do nothing for 
> me.
> Rich
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