Nov 16, 2009

[Movies] Astro Boy (2009)

Astro BoyThere are those elements of your childhood that you'll always remember. There are those toys that you'll always look for in bargain bins or the TV shows that you enjoyed. One of the more major parts of my childhood are all the cartoons that I used to watch, and believe me there were a lot of them.

In recent years, it seems to have become hip and highly marketable for movie studios, TV networks and even comic book companies to revisit the cartoons of our youth and update them for modern times in order to tap into that fan base with hopefully lucrative results. This has resulted in a few campily fun products but more often than not we end up with some pretty lousy versions of classic cartoons.

Naturally such translations tend to be significantly controversial amongst the fans and I'm doing my best to remain as neutral as possible in the crafting of this review.

Yeah, good luck to me and all that.

Astro Boy in the upcoming CG filmImage via Wikipedia

Astro Boy is a CGI-animated update of the classic anime / manga series of the same name (or 鉄腕アトム in Japan). It remained faithful to many elements of the original series but naturally took some liberties with the tale for...I guess we'll just call them "Hollywood" reasons.

In the movie, the world is divided between Metro City and the surface world. Metro City is all about high technology and it floats above the world. The surface is essentially Metro City's dumping group and is littered with tons upon tons of robot debris. Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage) and Dr. Elefun (Bill Nighy) of the Ministry of Science for Metro City have discovered two amazing power sources - a blue core and a red core with correspond to positive and negative energy types. In a demonstration of the power of the red core, Tenma's son Toby (Freddie Highmore) is accidentally killed and this drives him to create a robot replacement for his son. He downloads Toby's memories into the robot and powers it with the blue core in the hopes of replacing his lost son. At the same time, President Stone (Donald Sutherland) does everything in his power to recover the blue core once he discovers that Tenma has stolen it.

Now for the most part, the movie makers did a decent job of capturing certain key elements of the original Astro Boy. Flies with jets in his feet - check. Has cannons for arms - check. Can shoot light beams from his eyes like flashlights - check. Guns in butt - check. However it also skipped out on a lot of other key element like fighting pretty much in skivvies, or the presence of a robotic sister created by Dr. Elefun. But that only matters to fan, so let's move on.

The story was just...decent. I felt it was a bit sloppy in some points and there was definitely some shoddy plot development all around. Things get even worse once he gets to the surface and meets all the kooky people around there. Plus the whole President Stone as the antagonist was just a really weak plot piece that was pretty much on par with how they characterized Obadiah Stone in the Iron Man movie. Just some shallow, single-minded brute looking for a bigger gun.

Animation was pretty nice, that much I have to admit. It was made by the same studio that did the TMNT movies and it certainly shows that they're managing pretty well in terms of how they're refining their art style. I like how they present the whole cell animation made into CGI, and quite well too.

If you were a fan of the original series, you're going to enjoy some parts but you'll definitely be disappointed over all. If had no idea what Astro Boy was before, then you'll just be okay with it but it's nothing amazing or signficant.

Astro Boy gets 2.5 cute little trash can robot dogs out of 5.

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