Amelia; I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell; Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant; Saw VI; Astro Boy
Astro Boy hews to formula but entertains regardless
by Joseph "Jay Dub" Wade
EXPECTATIONS: I know next to nothing about Astro Boy other than the fact that it is one of Japan's earliest animated exports. However, I was a fan of Imagi Studios' TMNT. My hope is that their second feature offers a suitably Americanized version of what so many of my anime-loving friends seem to enjoy so much. If anything, this looks like the closest I'll ever get to seeing an honest-to-god Mega Man movie. I at least expect it be better than the painfully boring Monsters vs. Aliens.
REALITY: If I didn't know any better, I'd say the makers of Astro Boy have been watching too many movies. The film nails all the tropes and plot points of your typical superhero flick, but still somehow manages to keep things interesting. As stated above, I know zero about the Astro Boy franchise. I've read none of the manga, I've seen none of the anime. I am, for all intents and purposes, an Astro Greenhorn. However, what I can say is that this feature-length version marries the more entertaining aspects of Iron Man with an even more hamfisted version of WALL-E's eco-message.
The film opens on a nicely stylized version of the future, with Metro City floating high above the Earth's surface, which has quickly become a robot junkyard. The city's president (Donald Sutherland) initiates a test of his newest weapon, the Peacekeeper. In a first-act twist that can only be described as fucking depressing, the head scientist's son Toby (Freddie Highmore) gets caught in the Peacekeeper's path and is promptly vaporized. Out of despair, the scientist builds a robotic replica of his son out of dud missles and hair. Powered by a mysterious energy known as Positivity, the robot henceforth known as Astro awakens with no memory of his recent, gruesome death.
The bulk of the film follows Astro as he casts himself out of Metro City and into the wilderness. Out there, he meets a comically inept band of communist robots (seriously, they are communists), a group of kids who took a wrong turn on their way to Neverland, and Geppeto's maniacal little brother. The film borrows themes and plot points from Frankenstein, the writings of Immanuel Kant and René Descartes, Iron Man and (I assume) Astro Boy. I appreciate that the filmmakers didn't shove these references down my throat, instead allowing me to identify them at my own leisure. While the film is relatively by-the-numbers, I nevertheless had a fun time watching some above-average animation of robots fighting robots. That's really all I asked for anyway.
RATING (OUT OF 5)