Vital Stats: Title: Astro Boy Studio: Imagi Based On:
Osamu Tezuka's classic manga
Let me say from the get-go: I enjoyed the Astro Boy film. It had its faults, to be sure, but most of them were small or very, very understandable.
Now, the question is: will YOU like it? And to answer that, I'd have to ask what kind of Astro Boy fan are you. If you're more familiar with Naoki Urasawa's grown-up take on the concept, Pluto, or interested in Astro Boy from a more historical stance than anything else, then this film is probably going to be way too kiddie-oriented for you. I've seen plenty of critics complain that it's merely fluff, but I wonder if its historical significance, as it were, doesn't raise their expectations slightly.
One of the main themes of manga-- the difference between humans and robots, between programming free will and actual free will, and then between programmed emotions and human emotions --are all there, but it's with a light touch. This is at its core aimed at being a kids flick, to get kids into the Astro Boy franchise, not like Urasawa's mature, more in-depth take. Additionally, I think it's a bit unfair to expect the film to cover everything that Tezuka managed to cram into 16 years and 23 volumes of manga (or anything close to it) in a 90-minute pic. All in all, I thought it did a fair job of touching on these concepts for a children's movie.
Which is not to say that there aren't some missteps. Side character Cora is okay, but not terribly interesting (in fact, her resolution is downright boring), and the main villain-- a politician whose desperation to get re-elected is more belief-defying than the machine guns in Astro Boy's butt --is less interesting than Nathan Lane's robot deathmatch host. Not to mention the deus-ex-machina decision that takes place at the end of the film to get Astro back in the action-- eesh.
Still, even with those factored in, I found myself enjoying the movie. If you're familiar with Tezuka's work, you'll find plenty of things tucked in here and there for you to enjoy-- the obvious choice is the character made to look like Tezuka himself (glasses and a beret-- early in the film), although my personal favorite is the appearance of the weird pig character Tezuka liked to throw in as a random joke-teller breaking the fourth wall. He appears as a logo on a building that gets smashed towards the end, although possibly also a few other places.
I've seen some complaints about Nicolas Cage playing Astro's dad, Dr. Tenma, but I didn't have any problems with any of the voice acting. Some of it wasn't particularly outstanding-- Kristen Bell's Cora could be just about anyone as far as I could tell, and as much as I love Samuel L. Jackson, I would have liked his ZOG better if it had been constrained to the one really awesome line, instead of a few more later on. But Freddie Highmore, who I'm fond of for his turns in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Finding Neverland, does great as the title character, and as I mentioned before, Nathan Lane's character is great.
Visually the film is quite a treat. The style isn't particularly unique, but it's bright, vivid, and pleasant to look at. The design of Metro City and all of the characters are true to Tezuka's original without particularly trying to mimic the original anime or manga. So I'm definitely in favor of that.
...But it's all certainly not on the level of, say, the recent film Up, or the less-recent but really awesome Finding Nemo. So while I think fans of Tezuka's original manga will enjoy it, I wouldn't force yourself through it just for the sake of it being manga related, unless you can enjoy kids' films in general.
IF, THEN, BUT If you like these titles, you may like the Astro Boy flick.
- Wall-E (but, uh, with more anime and manga style)
(but more kid-focused, though this Tezuka work featured similar themes)
Release Info US Release Date:
in theatres Oct. 23rd