Review by Cassam Looch
THERE’S no denying that this version of a classic anime character and story is significantly different to the original, but on this occasion that’s no bad thing.
If, like me, you are unfamiliar with previous incarnations then you’ll be pleased with the outcome as Astro Boy, the movie, is a smart and effective superhero animation which stands up to its numerous peers.
It works as both a kids’ film and as a comic book creation for older viewers. It’s surprising to hear the criticisms aimed at the film for taking risks and not remaining faithful to something most people won’t be familiar with in the first place.
Surely no one and truly expect the filmmakers to have catered solely to the handful of fans who have been exposed to Astro Boy in the past?
Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created as a surrogate son by brilliant scientist Dr Tenma (Nicolas Cage). Powered by positive ‘blue’ energy, Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore) is endowed with super strength, X-ray vision, unbelievable speed and the ability to fly. Embarking on a journey in search of acceptance, Astro Boy encounters many other colourful characters along the way.
Through his adventures he learns the joys and emotions of being human and gains the strength to embrace his destiny. Learning his friend and family are in danger, Astro Boy uses his awesome super powers and returns to Metro City in a valiant effort to save everything he cares about and to understand what it takes to be a hero.
It is an ‘origins’ story of sorts and as such a lot of time is spent early on establishing the characters. The slight problem with this is that when Astro Boy leaves the confines of Metro City we go through the process of establishing a new set of relationships and this only slows the film down.
It’s a shame because if it weren’t for the repeated pauses in action, the film would zip by and remain completely enjoyable throughout.
The comedy asides are also slightly unnecessary and feel out of place in terms of the overall tone of this film. The action starts with a dark opening establishing the Astro Boy origins and the first act is a wonderfully vivid piece of filmmaking.
Great care goes into establishing the character at the core of the film and Nicholas Cage (noted comicbook geek) does a great job playing a distant father struggling to cope with his new circumstances.
The central portion of the film does drag slight for the previously mentioned reasons, but the story picks up again for a well created and thought out final fight sequence.
The style of animation is one which might irritate some people as it is not the cutting-edge 3D Pixar style, nor is it the utterly faithful hand-drawn anime style… rather something in between. It might therefore be unremarkable, but it is effective and conveys the plot well… especially the lively action scenes.
Astro Boy comes with a guarded reservation… if you are familiar with the original and shudder at the idea of an update, then avoid it. If, however, you’re up for watching some quality animation and inventive storytelling, this is one release worth checking out.
Running time: 94mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 31, 2010