I just watched Steamboy with some of the improv crew. Which was a good idea, because being able to give the movie the MST3K treatment made it enjoyable.

The animation looks pretty good, but the dialogue is mediocre at best and the plot is brain-damage-inducing. The story’s set in an industrial revolution-era-ish Britain, and the plot revolves around this “steam ball” invention that seems to be a Zero Point Module for steam. It’s Icelandic, apparently. Various groups are after it so they can use it to power their steampunk war machines they’re going to show off at a vaguely-defined tech expo in London that’s largely a front to sell arms to a bunch of international stereotypes.

The biggest of these devices is the “steam castle” — whose name is mentioned about seventy thousand times in the first hour of the movie without reference to what it actually is. It ends up being an implausibly large floating fortress that levitates by shooting out steam, which somehow freezes whatever it comes in contact with. Like steam-powered zeppelins. The steam castle also has a merry-go-round and ferris wheel, like all WMDs should. That last bit was apparently the only contribution made by the main character’s grandfather, the “good guy” crazy-looking emaciated almost-naked old man voiced by (I kid you not) Patrick Stewart; everything else is the brainchild of his son, a steam-powered cyborg (because his body got injured in a steam-related accident). They yell at each other about their ideals for steam power and science and ethics and stuff. The main character, a boy whose last name is, you guessed it, Steam, gets caught up in all this.

Did I mention that steam appears pretty much everywhere in this movie?

There’s plenty of steam-related total abuse of the laws of thermodynamics, well beyond any reasonable suspension of disbelief, to make anyone with even a passing familiarity with science laugh. My personal favorite is one that, as far as I can tell, shows the main character using the Zero Point Steam Ball to fill the steam castle with steam, realizing that he can’t escape the massive boiler room without using the ZPSB to fly out (using the ZPSB as a steam rocket, naturally), so he then fills the ZPSB (which I guess became empty?) with the steam from the steam castle, thus leaving both full of steam.

There was also the obligatory rich and powerful young girl who seemed to be intended as a potential love interest for the main character. Aside from the fact that she was spoiled, bitchy, oblivious to everything around her, and abused her pet dog by whacking it on the head several times in a non-comical fashion. A dog which, although we know is in the steam castle, isn’t depicted at any time in the second half of the movie, especially not when Steam Boy and obnoxious girl escape from the steam castle (when it finally blows, after being ready to blow for at least 45 minutes), yet appears during the ending credits montage.

So to summarize: pretty good animation quality, steam castle, horrible use of science, steam castle, vague plot, steam castle, and steam castle.

3 Responses

  1. I think you forgot to mention steam castle.

  2. Did I?

    *checks back over post*

    Hmm, the ratio of “steam castle” to two-word phrases that aren’t “steam castle” is still far lower than it was in the movie. Too bad I’m too lazy to correct that.

  3. A simple search-and-replace should fix that…

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