A 19th-century British boy (voiced in English by Anna Paquin) is torn between his father (Alfred Molina) and grandfather (Patrick Stewart) in their bitter feud over their joint invention, a mysterious “steam ball” that holds the key to almost unlimited power. Japanese anime director Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s priorities seem skewed: The steam machines and vehicles move with smooth grace, while the characters are stiff and charmless (and their English dialogue is a Godzilla-style mismatch with their animated lips). Ôtomo’s images are impressive at a distance but dull and flat when the camera moves in close. The film starts out a nifty pastiche of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, but the characters can’t sustain the convoluted story, and the film dissolves into a nerve-racking barrage of explosions and verbal bombast.