After a discussion last night with Vin, I decided to clear up a bit my thoughts on Steamboy with this follow-up post. Or, to be a bit clearer, why I didn't like it all that much.
Steamboy has it's good points. It's a great premise- that of a young boy given a great power which he must protect from evil forces. But the execution is muddled, drawn out, dragging and unfocused. There are no clear cut villains. No clear cut good guys. No seeming central plot. There are too many things happening and nothing happening paradoxically at the same time. For far too many times and for far too long, action consists of turning valves and steam vents and pipes. This movie is half about action and adventure, half about PLUMBING. Okay, that's exaggerating but I think it's true.
A serious problem is that no one is likeable. No one has depth or is engaging or compelling to watch. Ray has plainly good intentions and a strong will, but is far too blank and confused for far too long. All the other characters are too ambiguous, showing both good and bad that you just don't care for any of them- not for Ray's cyborg father (who is the de facto villain of the piece simply because he looks the most evil with his black suit and prosthetics), not for his wild-eyed grand pa, not for the token love interest/irritating girl Scarlett O'hara, not for the British Government or whoever else is in the mix. No one makes an impact and this just kills the need to watch this long and dragging (if wonderfully animated) spectacle to the very end (and it takes a darn long while to end).
Yes, there's action and fun stuff- you have to with tons of steam-powered munitions exploding and going crazy onscreen. But it would help (a lot) if it all made sense, with a decent sense of timing and pace.
In the end, for me Steamboy is a cumbersome, flawed spectacle. Great animation and incredible detail, awesome designs. A clunker of a story though.
Whatever. Well, I'll of course keep a copy next to Akira in the old anime library for posterity. But I don't expect myself to be taking this out and watching it too often anytime soon. Moving on...