I don't know why I never bothered with Astro Boy. I've had a copy of the 2003 animated series for years now, but never bothered to watch. There was always something else to see or read and the clild like character just didn't have that draw that comes from being completely bad-ass at first glance.
I mean, come on. He's a prepubescent robot boy in tight underwear and go go boots...
However, after watching the new computer animated movie, I am a convert. As soon as I left the theater, I went over to Toys R' Us and bought 3 versions of the diminuitive little bugger, and a few of the bigger bad guys for him to fight. He's currently on my desk fighting my 7" NECA and Mezco figures and kicking some plastic behind. Later, I'm going home and will dig through my DVD collection for those discs so I can find out where this little nekkid guy has been and what other stuff besides his butt mounted machine guns he has in store for me.
After some quality time with wikipedia, I found out that Astro Boy is actually the first Anime. It was this one that spawned all the big eyes, funky hair, speedlines, and those pans, zooms, closeups, and long-ass panoramic establishing shots, that we all remember so well from Robotech (Macross to you folks). That is way cool.
So how does the new computer animated film stack up to the old school series?
I like it. Though the animation isn't up to Pixar standards, a lot of the effects and colors are appealing and make up for the lack. The fights are something else. Watching Astroboy in the area, or going toe to toe with the mutated Peacekeeper I felt myself cheering inside like a schoolgirl watching Robert Pattinson save Kristen Stewart from yet another vampire. This little guy could totally kick that wussy bloodsucker's butt though, with his arm cannons, rocket feet, and the aforementioned butt mounted firearms.
The plot is about what you'd expect; a variation of Pinocchio. Dr. Tenma loses his son in a lab accident and in his grief decides to make a robot copy. blah blah blah. Truthfully, if you're going in for some witty dialogue and great acting, you're going to be disappointed. The lines are all kind of forced, with director David Bowers script clunking along. There is maybe one line that actually drew a laugh from me and it wasn't "a squirty-bottle's got to do, what a squirty-bottle's got to do". Seriously, the screenplay reads like bad B movie.
The voice casting doesn't help. Again, we see how casting big names can really kill a animated film. Every time Nicolas Cage spoke, I felt physically ill. He is an example of an actor who should be banned from doing voice work. Ever. I felt like he was sitting at a table doing a read through. Many of the other actors share this same failure. Bill Nighy as Dr. Elefun. Donald Sutherland as President Stone. Samuel L. Jackson as Zog. All of them should have been dropped before they were cast. The only one who knew how to have fun with it was Nathan Lane and the voices of the RRF, though the poor script really killed their work.
But if you make it through the exposition, you'll get to the good parts. They last 40 minutes or so of the movie really kick it into high gear and by the time I got to the end, I felt satisfied enough to forget about the rest of it. I came away hoping that they would be releasing a sequel sometime soon, since this effort seemed much like a dry run, with many of the peices needing some refining.
To recap: If you're a fan of deep, traditional anime, you probably won't like this. If you like you're a summer blockbuster movie goer who's a kid at heart, then you probably will.