ASTRO BOY Review - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Movie: Astro Boy
  • Rating: PG
  • Starring: Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Bill Nighy and Donald Sutherland
  • Written By: Timothy Harris
  • Directed By: David Bowers
  • Distributor: Summit Entertainment
  • Series: Astro Boy

ASTRO BOY Review

Jet boots blaze, but lack fuel for parents

By Rob M. Worley     October 23, 2009

 

Over 50 years ago Japanese cartoonist Osamu Tezuka gave birth to a phenomenon when he first published the manga adventures of Tetsuwan Atomuin 1951. Some ten years later the book was adapted as an anime which was eventually seen by audiences in the U.S. and other English-speaking markets as Astro Boy.
 
Now the Hong Kong/American studio Imagi re-introduces the character as the star of the new animated feature Astro Boy.
 
The film opens on Metro City a far-future milieu that floats in the sky, high above the polluted Earth. Metro City is served by a legion of robots who do man's bidding until they break down, at which point they're discarded like garbage and dumped on the planet below.
 
Toby (Freddie Highmore) is a super-smart school boy whose father, Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage) is the head of Ministry of Science. Toby crashes the military demo of the new "Peace Keeper" robot and is accidentally killed right before Tenma's eyes. Stricken with grief, Tenma builds a robotic replica of his son and invests it with Toby's memories and every bit of defensive capability known to his military masters. No harm will ever befall him.
 
Unfortunately, Astro Boy is not a perfect replica and, just as he discovers he's not a real boy, Dr. Tenma comes to regret his actions and wants to dismantle him. Astro flees and, like Pinnochio (who's story was in inspiration for Tezuka's original), he goes on his quest to discover what a real boy is made of.
 
The ensuing journey is the kind of animated fare that kids will likely love even as their parents impatiently check their watches.
 
The animation and visual designs are terrific. Throughout the adventure Astro is a very appealing character. If you love cool robots that come in all shapes, sizes and configurations, you'll find plenty to enjoy here.
 
There's a great sense of fun as Astro discovers his ability to fly (jet boots!) and soars though the city, then high above the clouds and then tunnels through a mountain at super speed before erupting through the volcano top. Later Astro finds himself in the clutches of a Stromboli-esque figure called Ham Eggs and eventually has to square off against a myriad of awesome robot fighters.
 
The final showdown between Astro and his nemesis provides some particularly great eye-candy.
 
There's a fair amount of humor to keep the kids laughing and even provide a giggle or two for adults.
 
Where the movie is lacking is in the emotional components that make most recent animated blockbusters really work. Particularly troubling is Toby's death scene. Obviously there's a need to avoid rendering the violence in a graphic manner, but Dr. Tenma's reaction to it is so understated as to be undetectable. It calls to mind (and suffers by comparison to) the early scenes of Finding Nemo, where Marlon is helpless to stop the attack on his family and is left cradling the last egg that protects his unborn son.
 
You definitely will not find a lump in your throat watching Tenma's reaction.
 
There are attempts to help older viewers have fun. Film buffs will find references to things like Lang's Metropolis, Browning's Freaks and even Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.
 
Perhaps most targeted to the adults is the movie's extremely clumsy political commentary. See, the good energy that fuels Astro Boy is Blue. It's positive and leads to positive change. Bad or negative energy is Red. It is aggressive and warlike.
 
The President Stone character (Donald Sutherland) favors red. He even builds up a bogus war scenario in hopes that the populous of Metro City will see him as strong on defense and re-elect him president. He exists in a red state for sure.
 
Blue good. Red bad. My son is dead, I guess I'll build a robot.
 
Eager to run the bases of its plot, Astro Boy serves everything up in too simplistic a manner. It lacks the sophistication of the better animated movies of the recent past. It moves too quickly from the interesting themes contained within its premise and robs itself of the emotional hooks that would elevate it to the level of a great story.
 
At the end of the day, Astro Boy is still a serviceable kids adventure movie. The action and visuals will have the kids soaring with the boy robot, but the lack of substance will leave the parents as disappointed as Dr. Tenma.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 10
1 
Walker 10/23/2009 6:34:40 AM

Perhaps most targeted to the adults is the movie's extremely clumsy political commentary. See, the good energy that fuels Astro Boy is Blue. It's positive and leads to positive change. Bad or negative energy is Red. It is aggressive and warlike.

Uh, this is basic color association theory; it is a precept of psychology.  Many, many studies have demonstrated that blue colors make people more docile, while red makes them more aggressive.

The fact that you somehow think this is political commentary says more about you than it does the movie.

LooneyBinJIm 10/23/2009 12:43:09 PM

I also would like to point out that the blue=good and red=evil color scheme was used in most eighties cartoon shows as well. Just watch Transformers or G.I. Joe. The Autobots/Joes shot blue lasers and The Decepticons/Cobra shot red ones.

dragon261 10/23/2009 1:13:49 PM

Looks like this will be a rental.

TheSleeper 10/23/2009 1:41:23 PM

The blue = good, red = bad color association has been around for ages (remember the lightsabers in Star Wars?).

Maybe you won't remember this, but blue used to be the color associated with Republicans, and red was associated with Democrats, up through the Eighties.  The colors got switched, I believe because Left-leaning media types didn't like red being associated Democrats (red= communism, and all that).

Herron 10/23/2009 2:47:06 PM

I actually really enjoyed the movie. While it's nothing ground breaking it's still fun to watch. It would fit in with all the Saturday morning cartoon shows. I guess if you're going to watch it don't go in thinking it's going to be something dark and have a lot of depth. It basically scratches the surface on a lot of issues but never goes deep, it keeps it in the kid zone.

A Squeeze bottle's gotta do what a Squeeze bottle's gotta do!

fft5305 10/24/2009 8:19:28 AM

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...

shadowprime 10/24/2009 10:29:32 AM

 

Sometimes a cigar IS just a cigar, and unless/until I see the movie, can't comment on ASTRO BOY in particular, but... I find it understandable that Rob would think the association was polticially-tinged. After all, the movie IS coming out in 2009, and in 2009, "Red state/Blue state" does have certain connotations. AND, at least IMHO, it is pretty much the case that when a movie contains a political message these days, you can guess which side of the political spectrum is going to be treated sympathetically.

Just saying - I don't think offhand dismissal of Rob's suggestion is entirely fair. But I would need to see ASTRO BOY first, to know first-hand.

Shadow

 

everdreaded 10/25/2009 3:54:13 PM

Took my nephews to see it..I remember the somber sometimes tone of it back with the original black and white. There are hints of it but it was definitely toned down for American audiences...

Wasn't a bad movie at all,I sorta let the child in me enjoy it and eboys loved it. Don't see why alot of folks are in a huff about it being authentic as the original stories, thats HOLLYWOOD nowadays, suck it up or don't watch it..especially since i also noticed some are the same folk who excused ALL the X-men movies for doing the same..but thats another story.

And yeah there was that red blue thing..definitely tones of the cold war in it..but its minor..not really worth a discussion in my mind...

It's a rental for sure but  i wouldn't mind seeing again. Visually cool looking and the artist in me digs that.

fft5305 10/25/2009 9:06:36 PM

I don't think offhand dismissal of Rob's suggestion is entirely fair.

Never let facts get in the way of a perfectly good opinion....

Tralfaz 11/27/2009 8:23:24 AM

I saw this at the theater with friends. I'm 18 and I thought it was awesome. We all did. What is it with movie critics? They drool over that MORONIC Mr. Fox movie and diss this? This was kickass. The animation was beautiful and the central character made you root for him, great voice work, funny and sad and just great. Fight scenes rocked. NOT FOR KIDS ONLY. Not even close. NOT JUST  A RENTAL either. Glad I saw it at the theater, the audience was into it and that's part of the fun of going to the movies imo. Astro Boy - five stars.

1 

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