to save her Ray"
At the dawn of the industrial revolution and on the eve of
the Great Exhibition at the magnificent Crystal Palace, Ray Steam (Paquin)
receives a mysterious package from his Grandfather (Stewart) containing
his most precious procession, the invention that could change the world,
'The Steam Ball'. When armed men come to take it, Ray escapes and travels
to London to find the one man who can help him, Robert Stephenson but when
he gets to the capital he discovers that the man chasing him is not who
he is expecting it to be.
As the major Hollywood studios have completely given up on
traditional 2D animation and thrown all its endeavours into computer animated
wizardry, it is now up to the rest of the world to keep this tradition alive
and no one is doing it better than the Japanese.
After directing one of the most influential Anime features
of all time, the groundbreaking 'Akira', Katsuhiro Ôtomo is a legend in
the genre. The film was a worldwide smash and redefined how the west saw
the animated medium, changing from its family oriented status to a medium
of no folds barred action and extreme violence. It was the detail and style
of the piece that made audiences sit up and notice.
Katsuhiro Ôtomo's latest is a slight change in direction.
Gone is the excessive and stylised violence of his previous Manga influenced
fair to be replaced by more family driven action that everyone can enjoy.
Here we have the story of a child growing up at the dawn of the industrial
revolution, who is drawn into battle between two pioneers in the field of
steam. This is science gone amok with grandiose and fantastical machines
powered by steam raising havoc during the Great Exhibition in 1851.
The Steam Castle is the most advanced machine on the planet
and it will change the worldview on how modern warfare and science are viewed
for decades to come. This is a building like nothing you have ever seen
and the weapons and armoury inside is enough to invade a country. It is
like science fiction for the steam age, as Ôtomo and his creative team run
riot to create some truly imaginative creations.
For those of you who have given up on tradition 2D animation
because you think it looks dated or not as visually stunning as something
computer generated, then you haven't seen the latest wave of animation coming
from Asia. Where Disney used to blend CG with tradition, hand drawn animation,
Asia filmmakers have taken that concept and made it into a complete art
form. The look of this movie is quite simply astonishing and comparable
to anything a computer can create. 19th Century London and Manchester are
vividly recreated, in all their Victorian splendour and the Steam Castle
and all its contraptions are beautifully drawn and realised.
All this visual splendour would be nothing without a good
story and 'Steam Boy' is an excellent example of a boy's own adventure.
Here we have an intelligent protagonist, who through no fault of his own
is pushed into the role of hero and peacemaker, even though he is only a
teenager. As soon as he makes that choice we are taken on a roller coaster
ride that sees Ray take on steam driven claws, soldiers and flying machines
before the final confrontation with the Steam Castle itself.
'Steam Boy' shows that the traditionally animated feature
is not a dead art form and that Asian filmmakers are new masters of the
genre. As a piece of family entertainment this is storytelling at its most
adventurous, showing Hollywood that animation doesn't have to be about talking
animals, toys or fairytale creatures.
PICTURE & SOUND
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 and
dts soundtrack, the movie is presented extremely well, as you'd expect
from an animated movie.
Featurettes (88.12 mins)
Writer/director Katsuhiro Ôtomo, art director Shinji Kimuro, special effects
director Takashi Hoshimoto, animation director Tatsuya Tomaru, digital
composite director Mitsuhiro Sato, CGI director Hiroaki Ando, co-director
Shiji Takogi, Japanese vocal performers Anne Suzuki and Manami Kanishi,
voice director Rick Zieff, sound director Keiichi Momose and western vocal
performers Anna Paquin, Alfred Molina and Patrick Stewart talk about bringing
'Steam Boy' to the world. Split into five parts entitled 'The Voyage of
Steam Boy', 'Re-voicing Steam Boy', 'Interview with Katsuhiro Ôtomo, 'Multi-screen
landscape study' and 'The Adventure continues (End Credits with Text)',
we see the film's nine year journey to the silver screen. The featurettes
show us Ôtomo's career and the influences behind his new film. We also
see how the film became a blend of CG and traditional Cell animation techniques.
The three western starts also talk about their roles and how they enjoyed
working with a different kind of animation.
Production Drawings (5.40 mins)
See the original design sketches for Ray Steam's house, the Crystal Palace,
London and the Steam Castle
Animation Onion Skins (4.26 mins)
Watch scenes in various stages of development from the traditional cell
animation to adding the computer generated environments.
Theatrical Trailers (1.31 mins)
Watch the western promotional trailer for 'Steam Boy'
Watch 'Astroboy', 'Cyborg 009', 'Memories' and 'Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis'
The two-disc director's cut of the movie is a good package for fans of
Katsuhiro Ôtomo and Asian animation. The featurettes cover most aspects
of the films production and the western voice over artists talk about
the emerging strength of Japanese animation. The only shame is that a
commentary track is not included but this aside fans should be very pleased.
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