Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: October 23, 2009
Directed by: David Bowers
Genre: Animation / Action / Family
“Astro Boy” is an animated film that is loosely based on the character Astro Boy featured in the Japanese anime series of the same name. The main character in the film is Astro — a robot who was built after the death of a boy named Toby. When Astro does not live up to the expectations of Toby’s father, he leaves home and meets other rejected robots. Because he was the only robot to be made from energy from a star fragment, Astro soon becomes the target of a man who wants to use him to create a new breed of deadly robots.
“Astro Boy” opens in a futuristic city that is located high above earth and what is known as “the Surface,” a polluted area where rejected robots are sent. Dr. Tenma, a talented inventor, is preparing to show President Stone, the leader of the city, a new robot called the Peacekeeper. When Dr. Tenma’s colleague Dr. Elefun introduces him to two star fragments that each hold positive and negative energy, Tenma decides to add negative energy to the Peacekeeper. The experiment goes terribly wrong when the robot begins to attack humans and kills Tenma’s son, Toby.
Devastated by the death of his son, Tenma creates a robot that is identical to Toby and contains all of his memories. However, Tenma soon realizes that the robot has a different personality than his son had. Shortly after, the robot version of Toby overhears his father and Dr. Elefun discussing plans to deactivate him. Upset that his father does not love him, Toby flies down to the Surface using rocket-boosters that were built into his shoes.
Once there, Toby meets other robot children that, like him, were rejected. He makes friends with the other robots and assumes the name Astro. His new, happy life is interrupted when President Stone begins searching for him because he is the only robot made from the positive energy from the star fragment. To avoid being President Stone’s next test subject, Astro formulates a plan to save his own life and stop Stone’s deadly plan.
The voice cast featured in “Astro Boy” really brings the characters to life. Freddie Highmore voices Astro and Toby. Highmore does an excellent job reflecting both characters’ emotions through voice alone. Nicolas Cage – who voices Dr. Tenma – and Donald Sutherland – who portrays President Stone – also do a great job with their respective characters, adding depth by varying inflection and tone throughout the film.
“Astro Boy” has a great balance of old and new. The main character is in many ways like the character featured in the anime series on which the film is based, but the events that take place are unpredictable. The combination makes the film enjoyable for both audiences new to Astro Boy and fans of the anime series.
The story featured in “Astro Boy” is quite inventive and unique when compared to similar animated films. The plot involves a great deal of sadness and even the death of several characters, but the loss of life is handled in a way that makes the film appropriate for younger audiences. Additionally, there are some humorous scenes that offset the more serious content.
One of the saddest events in the film, the rejection of Astro Boy, introduces the audience to others like him. The change of scenery allows the film to add more characters that add to the backstory regarding the city’s use of robots. The dialogue between these characters also sends a great message regarding imperfection and living up to expectations.
The addition of the looming threat of President Stone comes at a perfect time in the movie. Without an event that presents an imminent threat, the movie would soon become slow-paced. Instead, this plot development keeps the story intriguing and sets Astro up for the realization that he is his own person separate from Toby.
Aside form the emotional aspect of the film, there is a lot of action to enjoy, including fight scenes during the Peacekeeper’s attack and also during President Stone’s hunt for Astro. The special effects during these scenes and others are flawless, and those used to create the setting and the characters are equally impressive. The characters are constructed in such a way that their inhuman qualities make them appear futuristic, just like the setting, but at the same time, the characters also have human qualities.
“Astro Boy” is an entertaining film with a great message. The characters are all intriguing , especially Astro Boy, who perseveres through whatever he faces. The entire voice cast does a great job bringing the story and the characters to life, and the best aspect of the film is that it has a story that both adults and children will love, making it perfect for the whole family.
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