Astro Boy (David Bowers, 2009)
I have no idea why it has taken me so long to get round to writing a few words about Astro Boy, which I watched a while back and quite enjoyed; I should mention right up front that I haven’t read the manga on which the film is based, so I can’t give you an exhaustive list of differences or anything like that. I just took it as a stand-alone movie, and a pretty darned cute one at that.
Bowers (Flushed Away) gives us a far-future tale where Earth has become a wasteland, and the surviving humans live in Metro City, a tamed asteroid that revolves moon-like around the planet’s surface. As we open, Dr. Tenma (voice of Nicolas Cage), a well-respected, but slightly cracked, scientist (and, as a side note, the protagonist of Osamu Tezuka’s smash hit manga Monster), is living in Metro City with his son Toby (voice of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘s Freddie Highmore). After Toby loses his life in an accident with a Tenma-created mech gone rogue, Tenma deovtes his talents to creating an android version of Toby. Long story short: he succeeds, but he cannot bring himself to think of the android as his son, so he asks his associate Dr. Elefun (voice of Hot Fuzz‘ Bill Nighy) to shut Toby down—just after Toby has discovered a whack of superhuman powers that have also brought him to the attention of the military. Toby, trying to avoid all comers, finds himself on Earth, an unwitting mediator between a group of outcast children who work as part-scavengers in the mountainous scrap-heaps of robot parts that now dot the earth’s surface, and a group of misfit mechs who call themselves the Robot Revolutionary Front. The two groups are at odds over the kids’ employer, Hamegg. The RRF claim Hamegg destroys robots, while Hamegg claims he’s sending the kids out to scavenge parts so he can make robots whole again. And then there’s Cora (voice of Pulse‘s Kristen Bell), the head of Hamegg’s group of scavengers, who keeps trying to contact her family in Metro City…
It’s cute, it’s very well-animated, it’s got a top-notch voice cast (including eleven words from Samuel L. Jackson). How can you go wrong? Of course, I could probably answer that question by reading the manga, but for what it is, I found it very enjoyable. You probably missed this in the theaters—it was considered a flop, making only half of its $40 mil budget back on the big screen—so give it a go now. You won’t regret it. *** ½