100 Days of Superheroes- Day 81: Astro Boy (2009)
When America discovers manga.....
“He may look like a boy but he’s really a robot from Metro City. I give you Astroboy!”
By now we’ve had dozens of superheroes based on American comic book properties. With this American relaunch of Astroboy we’re given the first manga based superhero of this film series. Unfortunately the fans of the source material are going to be less than pleased with the amount of changes that their underwear clad hero has gone through.
The movie begins with Tobey. The son of a famous genius inventor. While being a little idiot during a dangerous experiment, Tobey is vaporized. The father goes half way to insane with grief and decides to create a robotic copy of him using a rare positive blue energy source. Unfortunately he is not a perfect copy and has a different personality. His father rejects him and the military attempts to capture him and use the energy source as a weapon. This leads to Astro’s eventual banishment to the earth, which has been polluted Wall-E style.
I guess that’s one of the main problems with the film. It features so many elements from other, better known, properties that have executed them far more efficiently; weather that be Wall-E’s commentary on environmentalism or Robocop’s search for lost humanity. Astro really doesn’t struggle much with the idea that his life is a lie. He is more kind of moody about being a robot and thinking no one will like him for it. Thus the film trades what could have been an interesting psych development for a generic “be yourself to fit in” moral which is in every other kids film.
Yet that’s not to say their isn’t a good story at the core of this. The journey of Astro from Metro City to the ground, to becoming a hero is actually pretty fun to watch even if it’s emotionally clumsy at points. This can be due to some of the writing in the dialogue department coming off as stiff. This causes many emotional scenes from having the appropriate weight and the funny stuff from being…well…funny. A lot of the comedy feels forced and it even throws in three useless robot characters as comic relief and they serve no purpose in the story. One of them even admits near the end of the film, “If you think about it we really didn’t do anything”. Every time they were on screen I wanted someone to blow them up and sell their remains as scrap.
The main saving grace of the film is in the visuals and the character of Astro, who is just a likable person to watch. The animation is pretty good for the time it was made. Sure it’s no Pixar, but the fight scenes are pretty sick and imaginative. There is a good variation in the action pieces and the movie keeps them coming pretty quick.
The film has a good collection of side characters, including the Windy and the Lost Boys-like group of kids on the surface. Yet if their dialogue was better they could have been more fun to watch. The only one who gives a real outstanding voice performance is Nathan Lane (most known as Timone from Lion King) who is entertaining as the mechanic who hosts robot gladiator games. He adds a good deal to the story and actually makes a better villain than the main one.
The president of Metro City serves as the primary antagonist and spends most of the movie twirling a mustache and embodying a political cliché. He’s pretty much a parody on George W. Bush as he seeks to start a ridiculous war with the surface in order to get re-elected. THIS is the main baddies goal? Considering the film came out during an election year it might as well had “Vote for Obama” ads posted throughout the movie.
You’d be surprised how close it came to it…
Yet, luckily the movie also tosses in a physical adversary called The Peacekeeper. A giant robot powered by negative energy. Now this robot is pretty badass as it can absorb other weapons, objects, and robots. This leads to some fun action scenes with it and usually it does seem very menacing when they aren’t doing childish gags.
So Astroboy is hardily the perfect kids film. But it does have some enjoyable moments mixed in and the action scenes are fun to watch. It takes too many liberties with the source material but people unfamiliar with it won’t care and the story is reasonably well played out, even with the lackluster dialogue. It’s a mixed bag but kids are sure to relate to it and have fun, adults and parents shouldn’t have too bad of a time either. It’s the fans of the source material that need to worry.
FINAL RATING: 6/10- (60%)
Previous DAY 80: Defendor
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