DVD
Steamboy

Starring (voice): Alfred Molina, Anna Paquin and Patrick Stewart
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: 11.99 / £29.99 (Director's Cut)
CDR34225 / CDR34225G
Certificate: PG
Available 27 March 2006


Ray Steam is a young boy following in the footsteps of his father, Eddy, and grandfather, Lloyd, scientists dedicated to advancing technology through the use of steam. When Lloyd invents a steam ball that has unheard-of possibilities, everyone wants it - world leaders, wealthy industrialists, and even the government - but most of them want it for evil purposes. And so it is up to Ray to protect the fate of the earth while also choosing who is telling him the truth about the steam ball's purpose - his father or grandfather?...

Steamboy (or Suchmubi as it is known in its native Japan) is the latest animated feature from director Katsuhiro Otomo, who is most famous for his 1988 classic movie Akira. Ten years in the making, with a total budget of $22 million, Steamboy is the most expensive Japanese anime production ever... and it shows.

A retro science-fiction epic set in Victorian England, Steamboy features an inventor prodigy named Ray Steam who receives a mysterious metal ball containing a new form of energy capable of powering an entire nation. But science can be dangerous in the wrong hands and Ray must be careful who he entrusts with such a powerful invention. The steam ball was sent to him by his grandfather, to keep out of the hands of the O'Hara Institute he was working for. But was the O'Hara Institute really using it for evil purposes, or has Ray's grandfather gone mad?

Visually, this movie is incredible - it really is a film that should be seen on the big screen. Otomo's vision of 19th century England is interesting. The designs are as though someone from 30 years before this movie is set has sat down and conjured up what marvels the future could hold for mankind. The result is a futuristic vision where everything is powered by steam.

But it's not just eye candy - there's a serious message here, and plenty of interesting social commentary on the class system in the UK. I also thought there was an interesting speech, made by Lloyd, that World leaders would do well to listen to: "We invent enemies though our own arrogance and vanity - they come from our own dark souls."

Although supposedly set in Manchester, the accents are all Yorkshire. There's plenty of politics interwoven within the English dub of the movie. Eddy and Lloyd are both from working class backgrounds, but Eddy is prepared to turn his back on his roots in order to embrace capitalism - something Lloyd will never do.

I particularly loved the inclusion of the Steam Troopers, Air Troopers and Sub-Mariners - that allowed a nation to dominate land, air and sea in order to defeat their enemies. And the end credits are interesting too as they showcase a number of stills that show a little bit more of the story.

Extras include The Voyage of Steamboy featurette (34 mins) which interviews staff on the project and original Japanese cast, as well as looking at the animation process. It also includes a "special preview" which basically tells the entire story in a very shortened version. Re-voicing Steamboy (19 mins) interviews the cast of the English language dub. There's an interview with writer/director Otomo (5 mins); multi-screen landscape study (19 mins); The Adventure Continues (3 mins) end credits without titles. There are also 5 mins of production drawings; 5 mins of "animation onion skins" (segments that show how a scene was built up - the first two were actually included on The Voyage of Steamboy featurette); and a trailer, which has the undesired effect of making the film look rather dull.

The only problem I found with this disc was that the option for the DTS soundtrack didn't work - it just reverts to the 5.1 mix. Thankfully, you can change the soundtrack while watching the movie, and not just from the main menu.

Steamboy is a remarkable movie, and certainly one that will be enjoyed by all the family.

Ray Thompson

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cover
£11.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
cover
£22.49 (Amazon.co.uk)
Director's Cut
   
£10.99 (Blahdvd.com)
   
£23.99 (Blahdvd.com)
Director's Cut
   
£13.25 (Foxy.co.uk)
   
£25.89 (Thehut.com)
Director's Cut
   
£11.99 (Moviemail-online.co.uk)

All prices correct at time of going to press.