Ahhh, Astro Boy. The long running Japanese series that no one in the UK cares about. And judging from the US box office numbers, USA aren’t too keen on him either. It’s ironic then that a lot of this story focuses on Astro Boy’s quest to find somewhere that he belongs. Well it ain’t here, I can tell you that.
It’s the year 2925AD, and Planet Earth has been polluted and deforested to the max. But the selfish scientists of MetroCity (no connection with the band Metro Station. Although they’re both equally terrible) decide to save their city by removing it from Earth, volcano included. So it hovers above the planet, looking down on it in disgust. Think of it as having an aunt who lives in Dubai whilst you live in Stoke.
The populations needs are tended to by robots, designed presumably by the same scientists who were able to make a city hover, but obviously couldn’t find a substitute for wood. The film begins with Toby visiting his father at work. Tenma is attending a lecture with the president of this city, Stone, about a new energy source that has been extracted from the heart of a star. The blue one is positive energy and the red one is negative energy. Isn’t science fun?
However, Tenma and the president don’t want Toby to see this lecture so they put him in a jail cell. He escapes, of course, and tries to find his dad. Meanwhile, Stone has designed a robot called “Peacekeeper”, and wants to use the negative energy core that Dr Elefun (sounds more like a safari tour guide for children) extracted. The logic in doing so is… Nah, I’ve got nothing. There isn’t any logic. But, he does it anyway and the robot goes mental. Oh yeah, Toby’s in there with it. And he gets vapourised. S’pose that’s an important bit of plot.
After seeing his son disappear, Tenma sets about recreating him exactly as a robot, implanting Toby’s old memories into it. No idea how he got a hold of those. He uses the blue, positive energy source to power it, but when he realises it’s not the same as having a real child he disowns it. So.. Elephun extracts these two new energy sources from a star, and the best use they have are to power little children and death machines? When will humans ever learn?!
The Tobynator (he’s not called that in the film, I just think it sounds cool) is hunted by Stone, who now wants the blue one, but in a missile attack fires him off MetroCity and he falls to Earth. There, he meets a group of orphans who collect robot parts for Hamegg (sighs), their “father”. He cleans up the robots to use in gladiator type fights. Toby hides the fact that he’s a robot from the others, but it’s later revealed and Hamegg puts him in the arena. Meanwhile, Stone puts the red energy in the Peacemaker.AGAIN. It goes mad.AGAIN. Astro Boy is brought back to MetroCity to fight it. The end.
Except that’s not the end. Because after he defeats the Peacemaker (c’mon, that’s hardly a spoiler. You knew that was gonna be the case) and everything seems to be back to normal, a woman screams and points at the sky. Is it a bird? No, they’re not scary. A plane? She’s just seen a boy flying, so that wouldn’t startle her. Yep, you guessed it.
Seriously. Just watch the trailer, and it looks like the sun with flailing limbs. There is absolutely no mention of aliens throughout the film, or any indication that aliens were about to attack. The only explanation I have is it’s setting up for a sequel. But it made me laugh simply for its randomness.
To be fair, for its basic formulaic story, Astro Boy succeeds. But in any animated or CGI movie, the most important thing for me are the voice artists and how well they get to be that character. As the opening credits rolled and the list of names who voiced characters in the film was revealed, I was actually rather impressed; Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Matt Lucas, Nicholas Cage, Donald Sutherland to name a few. In reality? I’ve never heard such an unenthusiastic bunch of people.
It seemed like everyone who did a voice in this was doing it for a ‘favour’. Not only were the voices half heartedly done, it didn’t even sound synchronized with the character! The best way to describe it was it was on a different level; say, you were listening to the audio through headphones.
It’s not all bad; the action set pieces are well done and the target audience (boys ages 7-13 i’d say) will love it. Also, the animation is smooth; there is no fine detail to anything, yet it is still great to look at. I shall hold back the differences to the animation in Up because that is my standard of animation now, and it’d be unfair to Astro Boy.
Overall though, an entirely forgettable experience, but worth a watch in a few years when it’s on TV. It really can be summed up in one phrase:
“Boy… that sucked Astro..”