"ASTRO BOY" MOVIE REVIEW
The Japanese pop culture icon Astro Boy made a leap onto American soil in 1963 in a black and white television series. Based on Osama Tazukas legendary manga (Japanese comic book), Astro Boy garnered a devoted U.S. following, becoming another hit 1980 television series, and then again in a TV show that debuted in 2003.
I was never a fan of the Astro Boy series and its many incarnations. But I can tell you right now, the new animated adventure Astro Boy has made a believer out of me.
Narrated by Charlize Theron, the film is an origin story about how a boy named Toby becomes Astro (both characters voiced by the fantastic Freddie Highmore). We learn that Earth has become a dumping ground of used robot parts, so humans built a gleaming Metropolis in the sky known as Metro City. The scientist behind the technical revolution is Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage), Tobys father.
When Toby dies during a laboratory accident, Dr. Tenma creates a robot to replace his son. He programs his creation with the best of human characteristics and values, as well as endowing him with extraordinary super powers using a power source made of positive blue energy known as the Blue Core.
But when Astro Boy fails to meet his fathers expectations, he is cast out. The ambitious leader of Metro City, President Stone (Donald Sutherland), also wants Astro Boy. He is obsessed with obtaining the core located inside our superhero so he can use it for his Peacekeeper robot created to dominate Earth.
Directed by David Bowers (Flushed Away), Astro Boy is a loving homage to Tezukas creation. Bowers co-wrote the script with Timothy Hyde Harris (Kindergarten Cop, Space Jam) and you can tell that both are very careful in preserving the integrity of Tezukas vision.
For every eye-popping action scene, theres a sweet moment about a boy who is still in search of his identity and purpose. All the actors doing voice work did a terrific job. Acting as the conscience of the film is Bill Nighys Dr. Elefun, the only one who initially believes in Astro Boy.
Eugene Levy provides the voice of Orrin, the robot servant of Dr. Tenma. Nathan Lane also joins the cast as Hamegg, an Earth-side entrepreneur whos hiding a terrible secret. Kristen Bell voices Cora, a Metro City runaway who becomes Astro Boys friend on Earth. Even Samuel Jackson joins in on the fun as Zog, an old school robot who plays a pivotal part towards the end.
Astro Boy also tackles important societal issues such as racism (robots have rights too) and saving our environment (Earth cannot be a dumping ground). But most of all, the film will speak to kids about finding their own identity.
The animation by Imagi studios is superb! The film starts with a 1960s cartoon look, and then gradually develops into a hybrid of Japanese and American animation. Astro Boys animation can be best described as both lavish and minimalist.
Sure, Astro Boy follows conventions of a superhero film but when its done well, even clichéd movies can be eventful. Underneath it all is a strong story of a boy who is just trying to fit in.
Summit Entertainment, the home that Twilight built, has another winning franchise in their hands. The East and the West converge to give us a truly satisfying animated action adventure that will win your heart in a very big way.
Rating: Astro Boy gets 3 flying robot kisses
Year of Production: 2009
Country: United States