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"Astro Boy" is surprisingly GOOD


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  • "Astro Boy" is surprisingly GOOD

    Just thought I'd pass the word along - I, a friend and her kids went to see the movie "Astro Boy" last weekend - and talk about a pleasant surprise. This movie was excellent. It had heart, wit, a few tears, laughs, a wonderfully realized and designed fantasy world, CGI characters that were actually cute (unlike too many other such characters, which look rubbery and sometimes ugly to me), and the most lovable animated central character since Mickey. No lie, that kid will tug at your heartstrings, and without manipulative sap. Think of a future-world Oliver Twist, and that's Astro. There's also some incredible action scenes and a solid message about tolerance and fitting in.

    There is only one caveat...some nitwit decided to put a fairly obvious political message in the film that was unfunny and entirely unnecessary. It does pull you out of the film for a moment, which is unfortunate, because until that point it's entirely engrossing. Fortunately, it's brief and can be overlooked if you're so inclined.

    It's a shame this little gem of a movie is being overlooked at the box office. It's far better than most recent animated films (Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, Ice Age - neither come close to this), and it's as good as "Up". I highly recommend it. My friend's kids adored this film, kept talking about it afterward. (Boy and girl, in case you're wondering, 10 and 13 years old). I am definitely buying this when it comes out on DVD.

  • #2
    Re: "Astro Boy" is surprisingly GOOD

    I didn't like it quite as much, but I did like it...I was surprised when there didn't seem to be a thread for it here (until now).

    Originally posted by My review for a local paper (I'm Brent)

    Santa Maria Sun | Film

    his is an American feature film adaptation of the landmark Japanese anime series (first aired in 1963, remade in the 1980s) and manga (first published in 1952). A humanoid robot is created by a grieving scientist (Nicolas Cage) as a replacement for his recently deceased son. Rejected by his creator, the robot boy —later redubbed “Astro” (Freddie Highmore)—must find his own destiny. Equipped with rocket legs, super strength, and highly advanced weaponry, he could become humanity’s greatest defender. However, a corrupt politician (Donald Sutherland) will stop at nothing to steal Astro’s ultra-rare power source. From Imagi Animation Studios.

    Brent: As Astro Boy begins, a cute “educational film” sets up the premise—which happens to be the premise from WALL-E. The wealthier humans have fled the garbage-strewn surface of the Earth, and now live in a floating city where robots wait on them hand and foot. Later, we see the shining city resembles the one from Meet the Robinsons. The hero is a robot created to replace a real child, and although shunned by his “parent,” he has more humanity than most of the humans he meets (see Spielberg’s A.I.). He accidentally discovers his powers, and after an awkward start, learns to master them. This is shown in a montage best summed up with the words, “Woo-hoo!” (See Spider-man). Eventually he realizes that, even though he may not fit into human society, he must use his powers to save it from an evil menace (See The Powerpuff Girls Movie.) Having never seen the TV anime, nor read the manga, I can’t say for certain that those other properties didn’t borrow from the Astro Boy franchise in the first place. The point is that Astro’s world will seem familiar to anyone who has been to the movies in the last few years. But in this case, that familiarity did not breed contempt for me.

    Roberta: The animation was great, with wonderful,
    expressive characters. There are lots of great shots that show movement, allowing you to zoom along.

    Brent: There’s a lot of energy in that “trying out the superpowers” montage. You can really feel the force of those rockets. Also, the filmmakers did a good job of bringing this old-school character design into the more realistic dimensions of CGI. You can still tell it’s Astro Boy—he’s got that distinctive pair of spikes in his hair. At one point, a couple of robots joke about them: “What are those? Horns?” “It’s gel!” he replies.

    Roberta: The way he looked reminded me a lot of Bob’s Big Boy.

    Brent: He totally does look like that! (For those who don’t remember the restaurant, see the first Austin Powers.) Young British actor Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland) provides Astro’s voice, putting on a very convincing American accent. I think he gives a stronger performance in this than the two films mentioned above (it’s also a stronger character). At the heart of the film is Hollywood’s favorite default story device: the workaholic father and the neglected son, only this time, the movie actually kills the kid off. Scientist Tenma is a compelling character, especially during his early scenes with his new “son.” Even though he tries desperately to be a better father, he just doesn’t know how to do it, and the robot isn’t really the son he lost. However, his character arc felt a little rushed at the end.

    Roberta: It’s sad about the real son, and it’s also sad how Astro (the robot son) is mistreated by Tenma and others. The film isn’t really for little children. I’m recommending it for ages 10 and up.

    Brent: I think this is more aimed at children than Where the Wild Things Are (reviewed in last week’s Sun), but some of the themes are a bit much for them to handle. The PG rating is justified. Astro’s quest for acceptance is touching, though. On the Earth’s surface, he encounters a ragtag band of scrap-scavenging kids, led by robot fight promoter Mr. Ham Egg (Nathan Lane). (Who, as Mom observed, looks just like his voice actor.)

    Roberta: It’s a wonderful scene when the kids get to fixing a giant robot and how they all bond over it. I also liked the funny Robot Revolutionary Front robots. They reminded me of Short Circuit.

    Brent: So those are the heroes, but what about the villain? He’s the warmonger president of Metro City who cries, “I’m up for re-election!” at the end of nearly every line he utters. The gluttonous, corrupt mayor from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was much more memorable.

    Roberta: Yeah, usually the bad guys have charisma. President Stone is just kind of flat.

    Brent: Early on, he makes a severe mistake involving a ball of eeeeeeeeeeevil red energy and a giant war robot called (in Orwellian fashion) The Peacekeeper. There is a lot of foreshadowing that things are going to go horribly wrong—and right on schedule, they do. Then, much later in the film, he makes the exact same mistake again! I know Stone is supposed to be arrogant, but is he supposed to be flat-out stupid? There also seems to be an underlying message here about U.S. politics. I love a good piece of political satire, but this just feels lazy and out-of-place. Lastly, the very ending tries to copy The Incredibles, but it’s not set up properly. I could almost feel the whole audience at the screening we attended experiencing a collective “huh?” moment, and a guy sitting behind us actually said, “That was … sporadic.” Ultimately, though, Astro Boy works because he captures our sympathies. And his rocket legs are cool.

    What I mean when I say it was copying the end of The Incredibles: When the Paars are coming out of Dash's track meet, The Underminer appears, and everyone puts on their masks to save the day. When the alien attacked at the very end of Astro Boy, I think that's what they were trying to do, implying he would continue to be the people's hero...but they forgot to have the "normal life" (a la the track meet) scene first! It's like, the city was just saved from giant robot descruction two minutes ago, and it's already being attacked by aliens...fade out?!?!?!
    Last edited by animagusurreal; 11-05-2009, 03:15 AM.
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