The problem is I kept falling asleep. I can’t think of any film that was quite so effective at curing insomnia.
Steampunk is a great genre – the brass engineering driven technology of Verne and Wells, and today’s hi-tech magically backported, as the internal combustion engine and the transistor had never been invented, but that the world had still got by. There is little in Steamboy unfortunately that truly feels like Steampunk. Instead, they overcompensate through massive overuse of the word ‘Steam’ – we have Ray Steam, the Steamball, Steamboy of course, a Steam Castle, and Steamtroopers (no, really). The artwork and designs are uninspiring. Aesthetically, this film looks like it was made in the 1980s. There is no story to speak of, at least not one with an ounce of conviction to it. This is the 21st century, a world with artwork as good as the recent Appleseed movie, and stories of the sophistication of Ghost in the Shell.
Anime fanboys laid the blame for Steamboy’s lack of commercial success on Sony, for a botched launch of the film in cinemas, but I think the truth is that it just isn’t very good.
The voice acting is worthy of special mention. It is truly atrocious. Rogue from the X-Men movies does a terrible terrible northern english accent. That’s a pretty horrible accent to have to listen to in the first place, but to hear it done ‘Dick Van Dyke’ style is even worse. Alfred Molina also sleeps through this doing his best impression of Ringo Starr. The only one trying here is Patrick Stewart, who ironically is probably the only one who doesn’t need to try.
Finally, the director’s cut boxset includes a whole bunch of extras – a mini comic book storyboard, a book of concept art, which unfortunately is all rubbish, and some postcards. All this stuff is in Japanese even in the english releases.