“Astro Boy,” a film produced and financed by Imagi Entertainment but distributed by Summit Entertainment created a rather small dent during this weekend’s box office. That’s perhaps an understatement because on a budget of $65 million, the film earned $7 million but does this financial matter suggest the animated feature was a bad movie?
Sunday’s are usually left for sitting in front of my LCD, surround sound and enjoying as many NFL games as possible but I decided to spend some time viewing this movie since I admire animated features. The amount of money a film generates at the box office in my opinion shouldn’t be the determining factor as to whether it was good or not, but with Astro Boy, what caused the film to suffer was based on one main factor. We won’t get into source material or how true David Bowers was to Osamu Tezuka. I’ll simply judge the film based on it strictly being an animated feature released theatrically.
Astro Boy is about a scientist who lost his son during a demonstration of new technology discovered that could be used for military purposes for President Stone. Dr. Tenma then decides with the memories of his son along with DNA saved, he could create an exact replica of Toby. When he concludes with the creation, his son is now "reborn" as a powerful robot by the name of Astro Boy. Dr. Tenma wanted his son back severely but didn't take into account regardless how bad you want something, you won't necessarily attain it. Astro Boy soon learns that he isn't a real boy but is instead a creation of the son Dr. Tenma lost...a creation he no longer wants. With President Stone learning that the technology he once thought was destroyed is now powered inside Astro Boy, he will stop at nothing until it's acquired.
The voice acting isn’t a concern in this movie…in fact; Freddy Highmore did a great job voicing Astro Boy/Toby. Each scene with Highmore was believable…whether he was happy while playing with the other children he encounters after falling out of Metro City or disappointed when his father/inventor Dr. Tenma played by Nicholas Cage said, “You’re not my son…I’m not your dad. You’re not Toby. You’re a copy of Toby. You’re not my son, okay? You’re a robot and I don’t want you…anymore.” Nicholas Cage was okay in portraying Dr. Tenma. I rather enjoyed Eugene Levy who played the robot helper Orrin, created by Dr. Tenma. His every now and again comments were humorous. Donald Sutherland played President Stone who comes off as a heartless and cutthroat politician so Sutherland didn’t have any difficulty persuading you with his voice of this. Bill Nighy played Dr. Elefun who is also head of the Ministry of Science along with Dr. Tenma. In the film, he’s portrayed as the more compassionate and against using technology for weapons. Weirdly, Samuel L. Jackson played Zog, a robot brought back to life by Astro Boy…he had perhaps two lines in the film.
The animation is on par with others in the genre such as “TMNT” released in 2007 by Imagi Entertainment or “The Incredibles” released in 2004 by Disney/Pixar. Both of those animated films earned well over their production budget so the computer graphics used was never an issue.
So what makes an animated feature go wrong? It’s simple; the story telling method is just completely off. I found myself lacking interest for the film but simply watching because of watching sake. The film’s visuals are somewhat eye catching, especially when Astro Boy experiences his “abilities” for the very first time by accidently falling out of his bedroom window. He flies throughout and above Metro City, which reminds me of Peter Parker in “Spider-Man” when he is shown web slinging all over the city. Yes there’s destruction in the second half of the film where Astro Boy is placed in a gladiator-like coliseum where he fights against several other robot creations by the manipulative inventor banished from Metro City, Hamegg. The ending with Astro Boy going toe-to-toe with a robot by the name of the “Peacekeeper” was also okay. But when it comes to telling the story in a matter as other successful animated features, I feel Astro Boy fell short. It was ordinary…sort of telling the audience, “here’s the story just enjoy it.”
Would I recommend this film to others? Not really! I feel if you have history with the character then you’d more than likely want to watch this live action version.