Jesus, I haven’t written anything in forever. This blog hasn’t been abandoned though. I have a lengthy post of The Cinema Book coming up soon. Hopefully by tomorrow it’ll be up. Until then here’s a sort of filler blog because I haven’t been writing anything.
Recently I had the opportunity to watch Katsuhiro Otomo’s Steamboy. Otomo is the creator/director of the world acclaimed Akira. Because of this, essentially every full length animated picture that Otomo directs until his death will be compared to Akira because of its reputation. Granted, I do “rate” directors based on their previous works to some extent, but I do not like to hold slavish devotion to the films of their past. Artist are allowed to evolve, or at least have different interests.
Steamboy is largely seen as a simpler movie than Akira because it doesn’t have a cyberpunk facade and doesn’t have a clusterfuck of a third act in it either. Just because the storyline is more straightforward however doesn’t mean this movie is without ideas. The essential conflict of the movie is based on the question, “What is the purpose of science”? This is where our protagonist comes in, Ray Steam. He’s pitted in the middle of two contrasting philosophies between his father and grandfather. His father believes that science should be for the masses to do with what their wish while his grandfather believes that only a select few should have access to science and then dispence it out to the masses to better there lives
While it does pose these question, loudly, Otomo doesn’t incorporate them very well into the plot very well. They only exist within the story to add conflict between the father and grandfather. We are sort of given a reference point to justify the grandfather’s position considering that his inventions are being used for war, selling to the highest bidder. Our main character Ray doesn’t come to any sort of conclusion throughout, but it isn’t terrible because he seems mature enough to focus on the fact that people’s lives are in danger and needs to be addressed immediately rather than sitting around waxing poetic or barring his own cross about the situation.
The movie is still worth watching despite it’s inability to mesh it’s intellectual yearnings within the plot, excluding the conflict. The movie, like all of Otomo’s work it beautiful drawn and animated. It has the most fantastic blend of 2D/3D animation I’ve ever seen. Neither ever overpowers the other and instead build upon one another to help create this beautiful world. Being that it’s set within an alternate time in Great Britain during the 1800s with a steampunk facade, it doesn’t have the “typical” anime look that is often complained about. Granted it doesn’t bother me, but it is always freshing to step outside the norm when making anything.
Even though Otomo reaches for something slightly outside his grasp in Steamboy, he still provides an immensely gratifying experience because of his perfectly detailed world, another jump forward for Japanese animation, and because a delightful story.