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.

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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.

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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).

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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!”

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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

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Not So Super

16 12 2015

Film Reel

During the first semester of my final year at University (about 1 year ago now), I was still studying Creative Writing and Screenwriting at the University of Central Lancashire. In my third (or 4th overall) year however it was very different, as for the first time I was doing Creative Writing Major and Screenwriting Minor, where as in the 2 previous years I had done them both joint. I decided to go down this path because in year 2 I enjoyed Creative Writing far more than Screenwriting, and wanted to do more of that, even though I was getting some of my better marks in Screenwriting. During my first semester I took part in my last screenwriting module, wherein we had to write Monologues. Now my monologue did change here and there, but the subject remained the same throughout, that of an ageing, retired super hero who just wanted to be left alone. As the development progressed, it went from a sad story of youth in my first draft to eventually a super hero talking about how he has to do work for charity events. Well eventually one thing came to another and before I knew it, it had been selected along with two other monologues from the group to be made into a short film.

Casualty Logo

At first I was surprised, but could not understand why mine was chosen. I was certain of other people in the class being better at the course than me, and so for a few days I was just at a loss to understand, eventually though I came more round to it, and began to get a little bit more excited. It was to be directed by my monologues tutor Anita who also writes scripts for Casualty, and produced by two of her ex students. I attended a meeting about the short films late December, and we talked about what they were hoping to do with it, and suggested actors to play the parts. They suggested for my film for the character to be played by Rev actor Tom Hollander (where as I thought of Tim Piggott-Smith). Anyway, that’s how it got started.

Rev TV Series Logo

In the next few months, news was scarce as to what was going on, but eventually come around February I finally heard news of what was going on. The plan was to shoot mine first out of the three and show it off at festivals. But the big news was who the production team managed to get to star in the short film; John Henshaw. When I first read that I was completely unaware of who that was, but when my Mam found out, she nearly shouted in shock and surprise. I was still unsure until I went online and found a picture of him in Google. I best know of him for appearing in Early Doors, but his filmography is much bigger than that with appearances in The Cops (which Anita also worked on), Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, and lots of other things I can’t currently grab to mind. There was also an idea for me to have an appearance in the film with him. Well, this big news was very exciting, but then about a month later I found out more detail. It turns out that John Henshaw couldn’t do it anymore, and was replaced by Shameless actor; Mark Sheals. Another person I did not know much about. However I was aware of the actress Alice Barry (after seeing a photo of her online), but instantly recognized her as someone who was in Shameless (haven’t seen it) and Phoenix Nights. Soon after that, I was given details about the film’s Facebook page where some photos from filming had already been posted and then invited all my Facebook friends to come and like the page.

Shameless Logo

So, Filming was still going ahead, but I had no idea when, until one of the producers phoned me up, and invited me to come down one day during the Easter Holidays, to Salford where it was going to be filmed. It was the Tuesday (I think) just after I got back from that year’s Saved2Serve. Anyway I turned up, having read the start of Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness on the way down. I arrived, waited for a while to be picked up, and then was, along with someone else who was waiting around at the same station. We went to one of the first sites and waited in an office for a time, only to find out we were not going to be able to film there, so we went to another site, had some lunch and I watched some of my film being filmed. The plan was that at the original location I was to be filmed with the star, but sadly it couldn’t go ahead for some reason. Anyway, I was there, watched it being made, didn’t get to have my scene, but still it was nice, was then given a lift back to Preston before journeying on to Lancaster.

Monsters Of Men (Patrick Ness - 2010)

Time passed some more after that, and I was hoping to receive a copy of the film before I went to Roothill that year so I could show it off at the camp concert. Sadly that did not get to happen, but during the previous July, I was asked to go down to Manchester, to Gulliver’s Bar, where a showing of the film was going to be put on, along with some other films that were made by some of the film’s contributors. Before that though met Alice Barry, was sitting less than a couple of metres from John Henshaw who came down to watch, and said a brief hello to Mark Sheals again. The films were all nice to watch; my particular favourite was Going to Mecca which was just really funny. But then my film came on. It was very dark and hard to see much, but it was nice to finally watch it. However I did not feel all that much strongly for it. It didn’t look or feel like the monologue I wrote, it just felt different. Out was the retired superhero who wanted to be left alone, it just didn’t feel like my work, but my Mam pointed out that it was the case that it was adapted from my work, and I may not feel as strong to an adaptation when I was so close to my original piece. Since then though I have watched it a few more times, it has been uploaded to YouTube, I have shown people I know, and I have grown a bit more strongly towards it.

YouTube

In the end it was a fun little experience, and though while it had its hurdles with both production, and me and my work personally, I am glad I did it in the end and it is a nice little film. Nice thing to put on the CV (which it is, and I am currently unemployed), but also a nice thing to show my family and friends, and something nice on which to end my Screenwriting Course. Now here is your opportunity to have a watch, please feel free to comment, like and share…….…if you want to.

GENEPOOL





TNA 2012

1 02 2012

This past Friday I went with my Mam and my Brother to Manchester to see TNA Wrestling at the Manchester Arena. Now this was part of their Maximum Impact Tour and it was not a live recording. The show was just a tour show, in other words it was a show that was put on for the fans to see the wrestlers have matches that were not going to be on TV. However Me and Mam agreed that it was better than the live recording shows because it meant that it was straight onto the show and no interviews, Just proper Wrestling. This was not the first time I have seen TNA Live or gone to the Manchester Arena. The first 2 times I went to the Manchester Evening News Arena as it was called back then was to see WWE Smackdown. I then went to see TNA in 2009 and then again this past week. Now a lot has changed since I last went to see TNA, there is no longer a 6 sided ring, there are no Beautiful People and Matt Morgan and Abyss used to be in a Tag Team.

OK when we arrived and took our seats we missed the Big Opening and there were problems with our seats because some people took them. However when we sat down it was straight into it. First off was an X Division Title match between current champion Austin Aries, Mark Haskins and Alex Shelley. Austin Aries won but the match was filled with High Flying manoeuvres which are one of the best parts about smaller wrestlers.

During the event the 2 hosts Christy Hemme and Jeremy Borash were handing out Backstage passes. They also introduced the wrestlers and referee Earl Hebner.

The next match was between Crimson and Britain’s own Doug Williams. Now this is not the first time I have seen Doug Williams. The first time I saw the FWA at the Morecambe Dome I saw him wrestle. I saw him wrestle again at another FWA show in a Tag Team with 2 Cold Scorpio. I also Saw him the first time I went to see TNA. I think he would be a great Wrestler to become the first British Wrestler to become World Heavyweight Champion (Currently only William Regal, The British Bulldog and Desmond Wolfe have come near enough to achieving it) although Magnus would also be a Good Wrestler to do it and he debuted in TNA just after I saw TNA in 2009. Crimson won the match.

Next up was a match between Gunner and AJ Styles. I don’t think this was as Fantastic as AJ Styles matches can be but it was Great to see him in Manchester again, AJ Styles Won.

Next up was a Tag Team match in the Knockout Division. It was current Knockout Champion Gail Kim who is also one half of the current Knockout Tag Team Champions along with Madison Rayne. They fought the Tag Team of Tara and Mickie James. Tara and Mickie won. An Intermission followed this match.

After the intermission was a World Heavyweight Championship match between the Current Champion Robert Roode against Samoa Joe. Now at the moment Samoa Joe is not popular on TV but he was incredibly Popular in Manchester. When I saw him make his entrance it was incredible and then it was also incredible when Robert Roode made his entrance. It was an amazing Match but Robert Roode still retained his Title.You can watch the match on TNA Xplosion either this week or Next Week.

Before the final match of the Evening TNA President Dixie Carter came out to the audience and thanked them all for coming and saying why she loves to come to Britain and also how TNA Impact has become the biggest Wrestling show on UK Television. You see, TNA cares about its fans, you don’t see Vince McMahon come out to the audience and say Thank you for coming, another reason why TNA is the Best. Dixie Carter also mentioned an old lady called Ann Timson who was in the front row who became a famous after beating up some robbers.

The final match of the evening was a Tag team Match between Bully Ray (who mentally attacked a Manchester crowd by wearing a Liverpool Football shirt) with Kurt Angle against James Storm and Sting. Now what is interesting is that my Brother used to watch WCW almost 20 years ago when Sting was in it and I don’t think he would ever think that he would see Sting Live. It was Amazing because I have known about Sting for a long time as well. Then before the match started Robert Roode came out and added himself to the match so Sting added Hulk Hogan to the Match so it was an even playing field, Yes I saw both Sting and Hulk Hogan just a few metres from where I was sitting. The match concluded when Hulk Hogan used Ann Timson’s walking stick on Bully Ray (who verbally attacked her). The show ended with some in ring showing off for the fans from James Storm, Hulk Hogan and Sting.

It was an incredible and Fantastic Evening. I love to watch Wrestling and being in an amazing building like the Manchester Arena to see it is Amazing. It was like a Rock Concert with Fighting instead of Singing. It was an Amazing Event and I can’t wait to see it again.

GENEPOOL








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