I just finished watching Steamboy about 4 days ago. After sitting on the dvd for at least a year.
An excellent description, which pretty much nails the uncomfortable place that it put me in: I hate feeling (the way new Disney movies so often make me) that extraordinary talent has been in service of mediocre (or committee) art/story direction. The follow through on Steamboy was first rate, and the designs, backgrounds, pallette, everything about the industrial revolution setting was gorgeous. So why did the multiple endings feel so tedious (and even painful, when you think about how much work went into them)? And why does the story leave you ultimately so empty?
For starters, I think it bears pointing out that this is Otomo, not Miyazaki. Miyazaki is an accolyte of the Campbell school. Otomo’s most successful work owes itself to a stunning studio follow-through, surrounding a sort of foxhole romance formed in the midst of chaos. (hmmm…)
Everything about the romantic story is half-assed. We are invited to scorn Scarlett for being a contemptable priss until she is the only living human being of breeding age within nautical miles of Ray. Then we really want her to live, right?
What they did right: I loves me a David Seagal-esque plot reversal (surprise! your surrogate Dad is an asshole too) Oh, the disillusionment! (I’m being a dick — I thought that was a great reveal)
What they did wrong: everyone Ray had come to previously trust is a corrupt POS. Ray’s crazy unibomber grampa is the only voice of reason. Is he really right? Demolishing every other allegorical point of view without replacing it with something –anything– is pretty damned nihilistic for 1880.
What I found amusing: how many times can you steam-punk’t Star Wars in one movie? Luke, Leia, Vader(x2), Obi-Wan. Of course a steam-powered Death Star posing the same question — will the machinery of industry serve mankind or enslave it? (in Star Wars the Death Star was a metaphor for State, but close e-fucking-nough)
Rarely does a movie fail in such similar ways as it’s characters do. MORE PRESSURE! I DON’T CARE! DIVERT ALL VALVES TO TECHNOBABBLE!