The crazy thing about revisiting a childhood project is that in the end you will never see it as you used to see it. Speed racer, Transformers etc are cartoons I grew up with and I loved them. But whilst the big film adaptations are fun I never gave my heart to any of them and the same is said with Astro boy. But this does not make this or any of the above films bad. No it doesn’t at all. The reason they never match up is that I will never be in awe of these concepts as I was when I first saw them. While I left the astro boy film happy but not thrilled I know there will be plenty of kids who will see Astroboy as I saw him 20 years ago.
Created by the team that brought back Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Astroboy is a slick styled westernised version of the old Japanese cult icon. Gone are the crazy accents, gritty action and the camp humour, in its place is the Americanised action explosion littered with enough voice talent to plug up Dr Elephants nose.
The film starts in the floating island of Metro city with the brilliant boy Toby (voiced by Freddie Highmore) who’s equally brilliant but distant father Dr Tenma (Nicholas Cage) is making weapons for the government. The Government is represented by a vote hungry president (Donald Sutherland with the perfectly creepy voice) and the scientific voice of reason is Dr Elephant (Bill Nighy)
After a mistake with a robot weapon, Dr Tenma’s son Toby is vaporised totally and Tenma goes mad and creates a robotic boy with all the memories of his son. When he late rejects the robot clone of his son, the robot flees to the surface world and takes on the name Astro. Adventures begin when he meets up with fellow orphans ,one voiced by Kristen Bell.
Obviously the film delves into the Pinocchio like story of Astro trying to find his place in the world as a robot. But oddly enough the film brings in a not so subtle issue of prejudice against robots and really paints 90% of humans in the film as heartless and 99% of the adults as downright cruel. But this is only in hindsight you see this and the film carries you along with it’s gorgeous visuals and top notch effects so you do get swept along with the film. Freddie Highmore is incredibly talented and brings the perfect balance to the amazing boy robot and his American accent is getting spot on. Cage as the grieving father is good enough but not up to his standard (again). Kristen Bell is great merely because I have a crush on her since meeting her last night.
Astroboy is a fast film that really pushes what Imagi has done before with their action. The final showdown is huge and worthy of the fussiest action fan. The crazy thing was when you see Astroboy flying through the city I can’t help but wonder if a big budget superman film is done like this we could get the franchise back on it’s feet. Imagine Superman busting up all kinds of justice with only their imaginations as their limits. Ooohhhh pleasurable shiver. Focus, Prester, Focus. Astro comes up against all amounts of enemies in his conquest over people’s hearts and it will do a great job of it on the younger audience. The dialogue isn’t amazing with some of the audience snickering at some comments but you really have to say "What do you expect?" It’s a kid’s movie and it’s aimed at kids. Do you think they are going to bust out in a dramatic soliloquy? Go home.
In the end even though it may not seem it but I enjoyed the film even though my guest and some around me didn’t. Director/Writer David Bowers has done a good job just not a great one. He will not reach many diehard fans of the old Astroboy because nothing you could do will ever match what they see in their memories. But as for new fans I think this will do great. It’s fun and not gritty at all. If I were a 6 year old I would cheer and stomp at everything I saw. True they have a super duper happy ending that ties up all ends but that’s what I want from a kids film. If you have kids go see this film. If you want to relive your past go rent the old cartoons. But in the end you should just let it all go and just watch it for what it is. A kid’s film.