Rated PG-13 2005

Sci-fi readers call this type of thing "steampunk," a genre characterized by advanced technology powered by old-fashioned methods -- usually steam engines -- in the style of Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. Writer-director Katsuhiro Otomo is clearly into the technology, but seems to have forgotten that what made his 1988 film Akira work were the characters (Kaneda and his bike are still iconic images all these years later). Here, a rather dull family of inventors in Victorian England get sucked into a large battle between the British government and a nasty corporation. Much of Steamboy is actually reminiscent of Wild Wild West, with a giant moving tower substituting for the giant spider, and the personalities of Will Smith and Kevin Kline being replaced by . . . no personality at all, really. This review refers to the subtitled director's cut, however; there's also a 20-minute-shorter dubbed version with the voices of Patrick Stewart and Anna Paquin. That might be a tad less dull.

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