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Movie Review: Astro Boy (2009) October 6, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews.
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If you’re searching for the most disappointing movie of 2009, look no further than the much-anticipated American remake of the legendary Japanese manga/anime hero Astro Boy.

I ducked out of work early to catch an advanced screening of Astro Boy last night.  I have been a fan of the manga and anime (created by the Japanese ‘God of Manga’ Osamu Tezuka) since I could remember and was so excited to see it (in part due to the awesome posters), even if it was with modest expectations given the track record of American remake efforts.

Frankly, there is no other way to put it: Astro Boy sucked.  If you are a fan of the manga or anime, you will be particularly offended by it.  There’s almost none of the charm, excitement and heart that made Astro Boy such an iconic figure around Asia (and the world).  The plot resembles the original storyline but not enough attention and care was given to make it work.  Much of the devices used were pointless.  Apart from Astro, the characters were generally underdeveloped.  The villains were cardboard boxes.  There were a couple of amusing references but on the whole the jokes were flat and childish (my biggest gripe).  The action was no better than any ordinary episode of the anime.  It felt like a film made for young children without any regard to the now older original fans that made Astro Boy successful in the first place.

Even if you’ve never seen the original (or its later incarnations) before, you’ll still be shocked by how derivative it is.  Think AI.  Think Gladiator.  Sure, some of these things could be blamed on the original story, but they were certainly aspects the writers could have worked their way around.  They could have remained true to the spirit of the original while infusing some fresher elements to it.  Instead, it feels like the film failed on both counts.

On the plus side, the CGI was not groundbreaking, but I liked its simplicity and texture.  It was an obvious improvement on the old hand-drawn techniques but retained the smooth visual style of the original.  There was also a superb voice cast, led by Freddie Highmore and featuring the familiar voices of Nicholas Cage, Nathan Lane, Donald Sutherland, Kristen Bell, Bill Nighy, Charlize Theron, Eugene Levy and Samuel L Jackson.  They were all solid, though Highmore’s voice, which must have broken the last couple of years, made him sound older and more masculine than the Astro we’re used to.

If I had gone into Astro Boy having never heard of the series or character before, I’d probably give this film 2 stars, but because I was such a huge fan, I can only give it 1.5 stars out of 5!

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Comments»

1. Nate - October 7, 2009

So you return to work finally and the first thing you do is……. leave early to go watch a movie? Haha! That’s awesome.

Now, are you frakking kidding me? I’ve been dying to see Astro Boy since I first saw the teaser trailer! My childhood died a little the more I read your review. (Btw, I thought Gladiator was good and A.I was interesting until Steven Spielberg ruined it with that stupid ending)

It can’t possibly be worse than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? Was Atlas even in it? He was always my fave character. I’m sad now. I’ll still go see it, I must see this horror for myself.

pacejmiller - October 7, 2009

Yeah, I couldn’t help myself. It was Astro Boy!

You’re telling me. I almost started crying halfway through the movie because I was so disappointed by it. I liked Gladiator and AI too, but why put them in the Astro Boy movie?

Atlas was also my fave! And no, he wasn’t in it. Not even close. I used to love the dynamics between human and robot in the anime but the movie doesn’t capture those emotions. Unfortunate.

2. DTU - October 19, 2009

Good stuff man. I saw it a few nights ago and thought the exact same thing: It’s a children’s movie through and through, a hugely unoriginal and derivitive one at that. I’m not even familiar with the original and I still hated it.

And now they’re working on a Gatchaman movie (Which looks a lot darker so might actually be ok) and a Tetsujin 28 movie (Which I actually AM familiar with: The trailer of which made me want to pry my eyes out for the amount of source material murder they’d commited within the TRAILER.)

3. Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009) « About Writing – The Personal Blog of Pace J Miller - January 2, 2010

[…] in this ‘re-invention’ (in the same way I was devastated with what Hollywood did with Astro Boy), but I didn’t have such a […]


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