Astro Boy (2009)

Film: Astro Boy
Release: 2009, theatrical
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Freddie Highmore, Donald Sutherland
Directed by: David Bowers
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When his son is killed in an accident, the minister of science Doctor Tenma puts his memories into a revolutionary new robot lookalike - the powerful Astro Boy.

Hans' thoughts:

In the 1950's, a man named Osamu Tezuka created the comic series "Tetsuwan Atom", or "Strong-Armed Atom" (known as Astro Boy internationally). The series was a tremendous succes, kickstarting japanese animation and setting up a lot of the aestethic choices that we now consider "anime" and "manga". Years later, in 2009 an American adaptation was created using CG animation, that's the one we're looking at. Astro Boy is essentially a science fiction version of the classic tale of Pinnochio, the titular character Astro is built in the image of a scientists deceased son and giving all of his memories. However Astro is not a perfect clone of the child named Toby, he has his own personality and dreams so his creator decides to get rid of him. Now in the original story, Astro loses all memory of ever being called Toby and establishes his own life while becoming a powerful crime fighter in the ongoing ethical battle about the laws of robotics and the rights of robots as citizens. In the movie they decided to downplay the superhero aspect of the character, and instead focuses on his search for an identity.

If I had to be downright blunt about it I was not so fond of this movie. It feels kinda stilted, as if some of the energy of the original work has been removed in favor of misguided subtlety. The otherwise really energetic Nicolas Cage plays a very quiet, at times even awkward Doctor Tenma and the same can be said for most of the other actors. The movie also suffers from way too many secondary characters. Astro is quickly pulled from one situation to the next and in some cases we barely get to know a character before we're sent along to the next scene. In one particular example of this, a group of kids were introducing themselves and then Astro is pulled into a completely different scene for 2 minutes to be introduced to even more secondary characters. As if the writers suddenly got bored with one scene and decided to simply start writing the next one. It does the movie a giant disservice of us not really caring about when a character we've only seen for a minute or two suddenly hijacks the movie to be put into focus again. Nevermind the very blunt scene transitions that's already apparent in the product.

This lack of discipline when it comes to what exactly they wanted to do with this movie is very disheartening, and it isn't helped by the fact that the movie has a tacked on environmental message which has no grounds in the original series, nor is it used as part of the ongoing narrative at all. At one point it seems as if they also wanted to talk about class warfare but once again they bring up the subject and then drop it again as soon the next scene starts. At the very least, I liked the art-style. They took the original style and made it more culture-neutral and streamlined. Characters are still recognizable but a lot of the exaggerated features from the comics and cartoon is downplayed severely. Likewise the color scheme and environments of the movie is beautiful and I really wish that the attention to detail in that department had been carried over intro the rest of the production. It's really unfortunate that such a gorgeous looking movie ended up with such a lackluster script and direction. It seems rushed, which is weird considering that there was no large demand for a western adaptation of Astro Boy - a 50 year old series. As it stands I can really only recommend the movie to curious fans of the original series.
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