The Entire World Is Waiting For The Power Of Steam – Steamboy

16 11 2016

Steamboy (Sunrise - 2004)

In 2013, animation Director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli; Hayao Miyazaki created a film which he announced was going to be the last before he retired. The film was called The Wind Rises, and it was a film that followed a young man who dreamt of designing the ultimate aircraft, and so the story took us on a history of his young life, career, romantic relation, and a retrospective history of his country, eventually leading the young man to his pivotal moment designing the aircraft of his dreams. There is one slight issue however with the company he works for, being the ones to foot the bills; the only option is to design it to the benefit of a company contract, and at that time in Japan’s history the only contract work for airplane manufacturers (or at least those shown in the film) is to build them for the sake of war. So while the young man does get to design his dream plane, he has to come to the eventual realization of what the plane’s purpose is to be. It is a very interesting idea for a story, looking at great inventors, the things they do; but also what they have to do in order for them to be allowed to build such things!

The Wind Rises (Studio Ghibli - 2013)

Released in 2004 by Toho, produced by Sunrise and Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo; Steamboy is a Steampunk animated action film set in the UK and follows the adventure of a young inventor who has to come to terms with the realities of the world of inventions and of course save the day from threats very close to home. Touted at the time of release as being the most expensive Japanese animated film of all time, Steamboy took 10 years to produce, and is only the second major animated release for Otomo following his milestone film Akira in 1988.

Akira (Toho 1988)

In 1863 in Russian Alaska, inventor Lloyd Steam (Patrick Stewart) and his son Eddie (Alfred Molina) have discovered a pure mineral water, which they believe they can turn into a powerful steam based energy source. During an experiment however, everything goes wrong with Eddie being engulfed in freezing gases, but leaves a strange spherical object being created. Three years later, in Manchester England, great-grandson of Lloyd: Ray Steam (Anna Paquin), a young inventing prodigy receives a strange parcel containing the spherical object plus some designs relating to it. Two men then show up called Alfred (Mark Bramhall) and Jason (David S. Lee) claiming to be from something called the Foundation and who want the ball. Ray refuses to give it to them, and is surprised to see the arrival of his grandfather. Ray makes a run for it, and is eventually chased by a strange steam automotive vehicle, making his escape on his own Monocycle. The chase leads them onto the railway tracks, with the automotive being pushed into a river, and Ray being rescued by Robert Stephenson (Oliver Cotton) and his assistant David (Robin Atkin Downes). Things don’t last long however, as while the train is en route to London, Ray is kidnapped by the Foundation thanks to their Zeppelin.

Ray finds himself in a dining hall, and being introduced to members of the O’Hara Foundation which includes Scarlett O’Hara (Kari Wahlgren), the spoiled granddaughter of the foundation’s chairman, and Archibald Simon (Rick Zieff), a company executive. Ray then meets his father Eddie whose head has been greatly altered by the accident, now with only a few strands of hair and a helmet covering one half of his head, as well as other metal components all along his body. Ray and Scarlett are taken on a tour of the facility dubbed The Steam Castle by Eddie who says he wants to use it to enlighten mankind’s vision of science. Ray is recruited by his father to help finish it off, but when asked to help in assisting to turn off a valve, Ray finds his Grandfather trying to sabotage the whole thing. He tells Ray that the purpose of the castle and the O’Hara’s foundation is to sell weapons to Britain’s enemies at the Great Exhibition the following day and shows Ray evidence of this. The two eventually reach the core of the castle, and pry away a steam ball, one of three used to power the castle, but they are then surrounded. Ray makes an escape but Lloyd is recaptured. Ray manages to run into Robert Stephenson telling him about his father and the steam castle, and hands him the Ball thinking Stephenson can be trusted, but discovers that Stephenson’s motives are near the same; to build an army for the purpose of keeping Britain Great.

s3

At the Great Exhibition, the O’Hara foundation shows off their weapons to generals from around the world, exhibiting their steam-powered soldiers, miniature aircraft and submersible men. At this moment, Stephenson launches an attack on the foundation using his steam battle tanks. With the exhibition now a war zone, Ray steals the ball back from David, and rigs it up to use it as a sort of jet pack. In the foundation’s control room, Eddie, straps himself into the machine and while under powered orders for the castle to launch. The building sheds its skin to show a great behemoth like structure, a big black floating castle, which then engulfs the city of London in a big freeze. The royal navy in vain try to shoot it down, while Stephenson attempts to pull it down with his trains. Ray manages to get on board the castle reuniting with his father and Scarlett, but is too late to stop Lloyd from shooting Eddie. With Eddie having disappeared into the machine, Ray and Scarlett assist Lloyd in getting the castle back over the Thames as the machine is too unstable and likely to explode. At the last-minute, Eddie having deflected the bullet with his metal body decides to lend a hand, revealing Lloyd’s original intention for the Steam Castle: to be used as a giant theme park. Ordered by his family to save Scarlett and leave, Ray makes his way back to the control room, straps on a jet pack and leaves the castle just as it explodes, sparing most of London in the process.

s2

Can a film justify its release if it does not have much of a plot? Steamboy is an interesting film; on the one side it’s very well researched, and is somewhat surprising to see a Japanese animated film set in 19th century England and feature locations such as Manchester and (‘of course’) London, as well as feature great moments of a country’s history such as the Great Exhibition and famous faces like Railway Engineer Robert Stephenson. I am not saying this can’t be done, I am just saying how well and detailed it all is but you would not exactly expect for a film from Japan to be set in this country during that period. Of course, this film does also have big outstanding and unbelievable moments, interesting characters and great themes; much like you would expect from the man who made Akira: or should you? That’s the point though of seeing it isn’t it, or at least most might think so, that because this man-made an iconic film from the 1980’s, one of cinema’s all-time great animated films, that is why we should see it; no other reason right? This film is of course heavily touted for being from Katsuhiro Otomo, the same director of Akira; but is that the reason why we should see this film, or should it be that it’s a happy coincidence, and that this film should really be its own thing. I think that is where this film sort of collapses. There are some good things about this film: It does feature big moments of disbelief, and it features themes and ideas as well as argues the differences between progress and greed as well as the blessings of science, but only a little bit really, as all that gets entrenched in delivering the Akira experience, with big moments, wonders of awe and nothing else really. It has it’s moments, moments of philosophy that intrigue that inspire, and the story develops this a little bit; but possibly under the belief that he had to deliver a 19th century version of Akira rather than explore these ideas and create something that was its own identity, Otomo just sort of skipped all that. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Akira, I would just rather watch Akira rather than something that is not a near carbon copy of it (Force Awakens).

s1

The film’s characters are a real odd bunch and (international released version) are played by some top-notch quality actors. Much like what was stated above, some characters are minor-ly developed and are actually going in the right direction but are lost in what is a rather convoluted and unused plot. The issue that this film has with its characters is that it’s hard at any one point to actually know who is good and who is bad. Ray Steam is obviously the hero of the story, but it’s just obvious if somewhat boring. The character is nicely set up and has reason to explore and discover as he is lost without his heritage and is in a world that he would rather be doing something else in, but other than that there is no real reason for him. He tries to be brave and do the right thing, he is just not a decent enough character to really get behind or enjoy. Someone like Scarlett is a lot more interesting. She actually develops over the film’s timeline, going from a toffee nosed brat to a proper hero and someone worth rooting for. Yes she starts off in a situation where she is horrid and someone you have no affection for, but as the film develops she becomes a good character, so why she couldn’t be the protagonist is beyond me. That is the thing though with this film, there are two solid female characters, Scarlett and Emma (Paula J. Newman), but Emma gets 3 minutes of fame and is never seen again, but she was interesting compared to Ray who is just useless. The issues with good guy bad guy just continue throughout. Yes, the henchmen are bad, but that is their point and Archibald Simon on the other hand is just a pleasant annoyance who can’t stop talking. Robert Stephenson is nicely done, but it’s sad that someone who should be a sort of helper, a guide or assistance in times of such peril turns out just to be as horrid and bad as the somewhat…..Supposed to be…..villains. His assistant David pretty much covers this role with ease, and it would have been more interesting if David per say was the villain out of the two and was something of a manipulator, and so Stephenson could then be the helper, with a villain by his side that needed defeating. Lloyd is of course a good guy but the story does the right thing of teasing his intentions and asking if he is bad or good, and then reveals his intentions correctly and stays that way, I just don’t think the mad professor look really does him any favours. Eddie meanwhile is of course the big bad villain and is voiced brilliantly, and much like Lloyd is teased into his role, but he just keeps changing his mind. His intentions and motives are there as to why he is who he is, but why would the villain suddenly change sides like that at the end. He should be a boss to fight, a hindrance to overcome, not someone who is like: “Oh well, let me give you a hand!”

s4

The voice acting works in some of the film’s favour, and boasts acting talent like Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin and Alfred Molina, but it’s not fully utilised I feel. Scarlett is voiced nicely and actually sounds and feels real, compared to Anna Paquin whom does a good job in a male voice role, but in the form of the voice that most people believe how British people speak. Speaking as a British person, I do not speak like that, I have actually yet to meet someone who does. Both Alfred Molina and Patrick Stewart are British; and they don’t speak like that; and they’re in this film! It becomes near offensive the more it gets touted. Maybe instead of hiring people to create a generic voice that does not actually exist, maybe they should hire British actors to do the job, because then it would be a lot more realistic (and less offensive). When it comes to the voice overs in this film the only ones that really do anything I feel are those of Patrick Stewart and Alfred Molina. Patrick Stewart’s character is not seen much of to truly enjoy, but it’s still good when he is on-screen, although possibly a bit loopy and mad. Alfred Molina though I feel really carries this film. It’s a voice of reason and passion, and although the character struggles to really find his place in this film, the voice over does the character tremendous and enjoyable levels of entertainment and justice. It’s just a shame about everyone else really.

The film does have its recovery sections, it’s not all collapsing. The animation is nicely done and works well to really capture the beauty and spectacle of 19th century England, especially London. The fleet of vessels on the Thames, the beauty of the city’s iconic buildings and structures, to the animated engineering of its own infrastructure. Add to this the machines and contraptions of the story’s fictional contents like the steam-powered soldiers, the monocycle, and of course the mighty Steam Castle in all its forms and you have this well-made world which has added benefits. I do think the animation style and colouring loses a bit in comparison to the film’s contemporise like the recent works of Studio Ghibli for example, but when close up the details are superb. The film’s soundtrack Composed by Steve Jablonsky) is an additional benefit too as it creates mostly sounds and ambiance rather than pieces of music. The music does have its moments of grandeur like the launch of the steam castle or the chase within, to moments of peace too like Ray’s theme, Scarlett’s theme, and of course the music behind the blessings of science monologue. Now while not insinuated within the soundtrack itself, there is one piece of music though that does come out in relation to the film: That of its theme from the trailer: Full Force; the adventure and steam-driven music that creates and encapsulates moments of awe and wonder, but creates a level of seriousness and tension to shine out loudly.  Although the film does tout some of that wonderful adventure but still steam punk driven piece of music here or there, it’s this piece of music which shines out for the film’s soundtrack, even though it is really non-existent, but it’s iconic and memorable enough for you to remember it in conjunction with this film.

Generally it feels like something of a shame altogether, because I was expecting more. Steamboy has its likable moments and bits to enjoy, but the story is so convoluted and makes more room for big moments rather than a properly developed plot. It’s one of those occasions where the trailer delivers more than the film. Steamboy is something of a quick storyteller; it just dashes from one thing to another, not developing nor explaining, creating interesting moments but not diving into them sacrificing its potential in the process for something else, but no reveal as to what. It comes with great voice talent but does not really use it effectively, it has interesting characters in the wrong roles and it has spectacular ideas that are just ignored. On the plus side the animation is delightfully detailed, and has music that has its occasions which are used well. Yes it has its big moments which are nicely done and very creative, but a film like this should be more than that. It should not be living in the shadow of its legendary predecessor and working hard to live up to be like its bigger brother. It should be blossoming like a flower, being independent and making its own path, then and only then can it have a chance to be on an equal footing and be appreciated the same way, rather than just being a clone in a different setting.

GENEPOOL

Advertisements




One Hundred Thousand Blog Views

9 11 2016

Southport Fireworks 2011

Recently, my Blog (the one that you are reading now) has celebrated some major milestones. A few months back I published my 500th blog post, WordPress informed me that my blog is officially now 7 years old, and much bigger than those, I have reached the milestone viewing number of 100,000.

100

It’s a big moment for me, as I never thought my blog would even reach that number. In the first 10 months of my blog I reached 1000 views, but I was getting less than 300 views a month. But steadily over the years the viewership has increased, and then declined (which it’s sadly doing right now), but after 7 years of blogging, my blog has been viewed 100,000 views. Now this was last week, but I thought I would still celebrate and have a chance to thank everyone who read and still reads this blog, supporting my writing, my hobby over all these years. So thank you to everyone who has read (and continues to read) my blog, supporting my writing, my hobby over all these years and I hope you will continue to read my blog in the future. Thank you all.

v1

Now to celebrate, I had no real plan other than to say the above, but I thought I would make a post out of this as well. So, how to celebrate? Well, how about a cake; here’s an (old one) I made:

Red Velvet cake mix

Now for the rest of the post, I thought I would provide you with some possibly interesting Blog Stats. As I have said I have no real plan as to what I am doing, but here are some generic blog stats about my posts and blog that I noted down to present to you (a couple of days ago):

Most views in a single day: December 31 2012

Most Views in a Month: December 2012

Top 5 Countries where the most views came from: USAUKGermanyCanadaFrance

usa-flag

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts (not including the generic homepage):

Top 5 Ben And Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavours

Top 5 Monsters For The 2014 Godzilla Movie

Top 5 Saxon Songs

The Best Film In The World – Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack

Film News – Seventh Son and 47 Ronin

Caramel Chew Chew

Well there you go; I thought I would just share those stats with you, hope I did not bore you too much? So anyway, thank you to everyone who has viewed and supported this blog over the last 7 years, and I hope you will continue to read this blog as it continues. Now to finish off, why not a celebratory piece of music?

GENEPOOL





This Is Just Ridiculous!

27 04 2016

Gorgo (King Brothers Productions - 1961)

I like Monster Movies, that is a pretty well-known piece of information about me, and one I have discussed many a time here on this blog. I absolutely adore Giant Monster movies from works such as the obvious Godzilla, to the lesser known Gamera, and a whole host (pun not intended) of independent and mainstream Movie Monsters, I have a great passion for the subject. I will happily admit however, that I have not seen every Monster Movie; in fact I bet there are still some I have yet to hear of…..I think.

The Host (Showbox - 2006)

Of the films I know I have not seen include classic films like The Giant Claw, Reptilicus, Garuda, Yonggary and Gorgo to name but a few. It’s the case that some of these are not shown on TV all that much and some are hard to get on Home Media. Some of the time; such films do require a relative amount of interest and reminding myself about them when looking into what films to get for my collection, but on occasion, you will also get instances such as the Godzilla films not being readily available in the UK due to DVD region codes and International movie distributors. It is really annoying, especially when you are such a fan of these films, and it makes you wonder whether or not you’ll actually ever get to see them. One of the above mentioned films however I have discovered is similarly hard to get in a UK home media format, but saying that alone is just the chip of ridiculous.

Gorgo Monster

Released in 1961, Gorgo is a Giant Monster movie originally created to be a homage to the original Godzilla film. It was originally set in Japan, but eventually just got set in Britain. It features the storyline ideas of Sea Monster gets discovered and is put on display, only for that creature’s Mother to show up and cause a significant amount of damage. The film was produced using similar techniques to the Godzilla series including the use of Monster suits and miniature buildings. It is something of an icon to the Monster Movie genre as it is something very different, but also very standout, as the film’s effects and setting suggest a very realistic setting and monster (but that is about as far as my knowledge on the film goes). Even when you look at pictures of the Monster or even in the trailer, you see similarities to the Original Godzilla in the creature’s arrival, bobbing out of the water and rampaging through a yet to be polluted skyscraper skyline. Plus it’s also interesting to see a city other than one in Japan or America get trampled on for a change.

For the most part, my knowledge on this film only comes to the point of things I have seen and read. My first real attention came a few years ago when it was suggested that Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright was considering doing a remake. While anything has yet to come out, it did sound interesting enough to take a deeper look into the film. I still don’t know much, but that is likely to change once I have actually seen it, which is also why I am writing this post; because well, you’d think that a film made and set in Britain would be ready available in Britain wouldn’t you? Well, it’s not!

Godzilla 1954 DVD

When I looked on Amazon.co.uk a couple of weeks ago for a copy, all I could find were a bunch of American imported DVD and Blu-ray copies. While this may not be an immediate issue for me as I am capable of watching such formats; I just found it absolutely ridiculous that a film set and made in this country, is somehow not readily available in this country. I was expecting this film to live up to a classical form, live up to being something you’d maybe find a rare copy of in HMV, something that you could find in nearly all major DVD shops in the UK of some size. I thought it would be a in a classic section with copies of the original Godzilla and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms nearby. You know what I mean? I just thought that all being well, such a film that is considered a classic Monster Movie, would have a status big enough for copies to exist in the country it was made in…..but it turns out that the answer to that is NO (or at least unknown)! And then there is the language issue. Despite once again being made in Britain, for some reason, the DVD copy of the film only comes in French Dubbing. It has English Subtitles, but in order to experience the English Dubbing (which I thought would have come as standard for a British Film), you have to buy the Blu-Ray copy. Why can’t it be the case with both, that both languages are available in both options? How bad must a DVD copy be that only one language is dubbed? Not saying there is anything wrong with the French language, I just don’t understand why the DVD copy does not come with English as well, if Amazon is to be believed!

Mini Rant over (I was originally writing this really tired at 2am in the morning after a celebratory night after being a runner-up in a story competition I entered), so, what to do? If I was really desperate to watch this film, I would probably just allow this one to slide, but due to how ridiculous this feels, I thought that as a British Monster Movie Fan, that it was something of a duty of mine to point out this near if not completely stupid situation…..then end up buying it in its current form eventually under the knowledge that my words are highly unlikely to change a thing, and just suck it up and give up! Why this film does not receive simple air-time in its own country is beyond me, surely this thing must’ve been shown on Film 4 or something at least once since it was made? Well, you can’t blame me for trying. In the end, I may like it when I get round to it, in the meantime though, it’s just a sad situation that when Britain does get its own Giant Monster, it has to live a life mostly outside his own country of birth, and speak a language not his own, it’s presence and existence relatively unknown to that country’s residents.

Gorgo Blu-ray

GENEPOOL





North And South

16 04 2016

Great British Flag

Milking the cow,

Reaping the grain,

But for why I don’t know how,

I continue with this strain.

Not enough money,

To feed my family,

If circumstances could differ,

Behind a desk I would prefer.

GENEPOOL








%d bloggers like this: