Lowdown: A childish warning about how we unleash the power of technology.
Without really knowing it, I grew up with heavy manga doses: my favorite program as a child, Star Blazers, was Japanese manga. That said, most of the time I find manga to be too weird for me to be able to really enjoy its storytelling. Case in point: Steamboy.
Steamboy is a fairly recent (2004) manga film with a rather impressive cast dubbing its English version, including Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina and Anna Paquin as the leading boy character, the grandchild of the Steam family. His grandfather and father are both English scientists dealing with steam during the middle of the 19th century.
The father/greandfather stumble on some major technological break while experimenting in Alaska. Something goes wrong, the news of the breakthrough gets to the grandson back in England, and our hero suddenly finds himself on a quest to deliver the breakthrough to a helpful authority while being chased by a mysterious Foundation.
Quickly enough we learn of the fight taking place here, with our Steam hero being caught in the middle: it's the fight between those who want technology at all cost, no matter what human harm comes out of it, and those that wish to utilize technology only so that it would benefit humanity.
In a typical Japanese way we see there is no real good vs. evil here, as our Steam hero learns that all sides just want the power of technology in their arsenal so they can subdue the others. On the way to delivering us the movie's messages about technology and about the way we humans have implemented it, while bearing in mind that the bulk of our R&D is put on inventing new ways of killing our opponenets, Steamboy has some pretty innovative ideas of its own: technology is implemented to create some very imaginative weapons, deployed in a multitude of scenes mostly revolving the World Expo set in London's Crystal Palace. However, while enriching the film with their imaginative nature, the ensuing fighting scenes tend to be way too long, repetetive, and rather predictable.
At the end Steamboy feels like a nice attempt to deliver a worthy message that gets clogged up with its own attempt to go over the top with imaginative ideas and less imaginative fights.
Best scene: As we're introduced to the boy Steam, we see him bashing peers of his with a metal tool. I found it interesting because your average American film, especially your average American kids' film, usually refrains from exposing the darker aspects of their heroes.
Overall: I really don't know if I qualify to pass judegement on Steamboy as I fell asleep towards the end and missed what could probably be some key scenes (I've had too much of waking up in the morning to watch the Euro 2008, it seems). Still, from what I have seen I can testify for an interesting idea being badly implemented. Steamboy just makes it to 2.5 out of 5 stars.