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Director:Katsuhiro ďtomo
Cast:Anna Paquin, Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina

By Ian Grey | Posted 4/13/2005

Drawing heavily from the Victorian-future-that-never-happened SF subgenre of “steampunk”—think Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic-book series—anime master Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) seeks to make wondrous 1860s U.K. with oft-spectacular yet emotionally disconnected results. The skittery narrative concerns one Ray Steam (voiced by Anna Paquin), a precocious inventor of steam-powered doodads, who comes in possession of a superpowered “steamball” created by his humanist grandfather (Patrick Stewart). Soon, petty thugs, rival industrialists and Oedipal forces—represented by Ray’s grandpa and his technofascist son (Alfred Molina)—are fighting to gain control of the ball amid the rococo grandeur of the first World Exposition. There’s no denying Otomo’s visionary brilliance—scenes of a steam-powered floating metropolis crashing into London are simply amazing—but his story, themes, and a dispensable love story are often impossible to follow, while any real dramatic energy is sapped by his characters’ frequent long and rambling speeches about science and morality.

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