Review: Astro Boy

Note the “Western Eyes”
Short Version
Trust me. Paranormal Activity sucks. Go see Astro Boy if you have to see something this week or weekend.

A Real Boy
The original Astro Boy aka Tensuwan Atomu was created in 1952 by Osamu Tezuka as a reaction to post-war technological advances and the swift industrialization of the island nation (see also Godzilla). This is not really that original Astro Boy. The plot in this update is pretty wonky: there’s this boy named Toby and his dad, Dr. Tenma (the voice Nicolas Cage), a scientist for the Ministry of Science for Metro City, a city that floats over the barren wasteland that is now Earth. Robots help out the humans by washing stuff for them but humans are like “Robots aren’t people” and there’s essentially robo-apartheid. Tenma meets up with his buddy Dr. Elefun, some dude with red and blue space stones. The blue one is the good one and it contains boundless good energy. Elefun wants to use the blue one to clean up the Earth. Then there’s the red one, which is the evil stone. And the President wants them both to make weapons. Spoiler: The President is a douche.

The President is trying to blow up the surface-dwellers with something called the Peacemaker, a big robot. The President wants those balls and so he steals the red one and things go awry. Toby runs into a room where they’re testing the robot and Toby gets vaporized, Dr. Tenma gets totes sad, and you get these weird questions from your kids where they ask “What happened to Toby” and you’re all like “Oh, he went away.” So then Tenma makes a new Toby, powered on the blue orb, and discovers that although he’s made an exact replica of Toby, robots aren’t the same as humans (although popular Japanese culture and the Tenga Flip Hole clearly state otherwise). So Tenma kicks Toby aka Astro Boy out of his house. Astro goes to earth, meets some people, and saves the world.

So Is It Any Good?

Imagi Animation Studios made this movie and it’s definitely no Pixar family treat. Compared to another CG-frenzy I recently saw, G-Force, I’d say this is considerably better than the abysmal Madgascar and not as good as the recent Ice Age. Thankfully there is enough coolness in the film to keep the attention of the three-year-old boy while still allowing his father to not want to check his iPhone every minute.

As I said in the short version if you’ve exhausted every movie idea for this month, Astro Boy is good enough to stand alone as well as introduce kids to the world of manga. The story is well-paced and intelligible and except for Toby totally going up in a red mist there is very little violence.

Bottom Line
A good placeholder movie before the holiday blockbusters roll in. It’s not quite indie but it almost has that indie feel and it isn’t as saccharine as some other recent kids movies.