Have a blast
Genre: CG Animation
Director: David Bowers
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucus, Donald Sutherland, Charlize Theron, Samuel L. Jackson
RunTime: 1 hr 34 mins
Released By: GV
Official Website: http://www.astroboy-themovie.com/
Opening Day: 5 November 2009
Few characters have made as powerful or as lasting an impression on international popular culture as Astro Boy. The little robot first appeared in 1951 as a character in the celebrated artist and animator Osamu Tezuka's legendary manga (Japanese comic book) and became an instant icon. He was subsequently featured as the star of his own television series in both black-and-white and in color, eventually airing in over 40 countries. Astro Boy created the standard for a new form of animation that has become world famous as anime. Now for the first time, Astro Boy will be brought to life on the big screen. Created with breathtaking computer animation from Imagi Studios, the film "Astro Boy" is a thrilling tale of a true hero. The film is set to debut in theaters on October 23, 2009. Set in futuristic Metro City, "Astro Boy" is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist named Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage). Powered by positive "blue" energy, Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore) is endowed with super strength, x-ray vision, unbelievable speed and the ability to fly. Embarking on a journey in search of acceptance, Astro Boy encounters many other colorful characters along the way. Through his adventures, he learns the joys and emotions of being human, and gains the strength to embrace his destiny. Ultimately learning his friends and family are in danger, Astro Boy marshals his awesome super powers and returns to Metro City in a valiant effort to save everything he cares about and to understand what it means to be a hero.
It was just six years after the United States dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that Astro Boy- first named "Tetsuwan Atomu" or "Mighty Atom"- first took flight in a 1951 manga by medical student turned manga and anime visionary, Osamu Tezuka. You’d understand the ambivalence towards technology that Astro Boy embodies- indeed, for all the praise of how much of a technological marvel the atomic bomb was, it did claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese.
The creation of star scientist Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage), Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore) was Tenma’s robot substitute for his prodigy son, Toby, whom he loses in an experiment gone wrong. But Tenma realises that while Astro Boy may possess Toby’s intelligence, his personality is nothing like his only child and therefore little source of comfort for the grieving father. How do we deal with the pain of a lost one? Do we try to recreate another to ameliorate the loss?
And thus it is with rejection from his creator-father that Astro Boy takes flight on his adventure to discover his humanity, meeting along the way a gang of children in an Oliver Twist-esque turn led by the Fagin-like Hamegg (Nathan Lane) and a trio of robots who call themselves the Robot Revolutionary Front. Never mind the political subtext- director David Bowers (one of the two directors on Aardman’s "Flushed Away") turns in a zippy adventure that will captivate both kids and adults alike with its kooky, zany humour.
But it is the third act that stays most true to the cautionary message of Osamu Tezuka’s manga, as the Blue Energy-powered Astro Boy has to save the people of Metro City from the power hungry warmonger President Stone (Donald Sutherland) and his 'Peacekeeper' robot powered by Red Energy. Yes, "Astro Boy’s" message of technology being the boon or bane of man’s designs may have been told countless times before, but it is ever prescient in a world where technology is often leaps and bounds ahead of our calculations of its ramifications.
In its brief 90-min running time, "Astro Boy" retains the everlasting themes of love, loss, death and humanity that made its source material resonate with people of different generations. Here, Bowers (who co-wrote the movie with Timothy Hyde Harris) stays true to the spirit of Tezuka’s creation, while deftly blending Eastern and Western animation styles for a colourful retro look that may not reach the heights of Pixar or Blue Sky but is surely competent enough to enchant you in its own old-school way.
Kudos must also go to Bowers for "Astro Boy’s" exciting action sequences, so that despite its rather mature themes more suited for adults, the movie remains assessible for the tots and the kids in tow. In fact, one hopes that Imagi Studios (the same people behind the reboot of "TMNT") had made "Astro Boy" in 3D since much of the action would clearly have benefited from the addition of one more dimension.
What’s perhaps most surprising is how endearing "Astro Boy" turns out to be, proving that American adaptations need not always be bastardized versions of the original. And this is ever more significant for the story of "Astro Boy", considering the conception of the character. Someone in the movie proclaims that Astro Boy had more humanity than us humans- "Astro Boy" is a timely reminder of our humanity that we sometimes lose so easily in our thirst for progress and power.
(Great fun for the whole family- "Astro Boy" takes off as a lively action-adventure with lots of heart)
Review by Gabriel Chong