By Fred Topel | Image property of Summit Entertainment
I don’t know how parents are going to feel about taking their kids to see Astro Boy, but I kind of respect where it goes. I found it all pretty exciting, except for the middle, and only as much as I’m interested in CGI based on manga, but still.
Review: Astro Boy
Now this is part of the original mythology, but a boy is killed in the first act. Wow, that’s dark. Kids might not be able to articulate it, but they’ll feel the harsh theme. No matter how awesome a robot Dr. Tenma builds with Toby’s memories, there’s still a dead kid somewhere. That version of Toby is gone, even if Astro Boy exists as his legacy. Toby is dead.
Then if the parents can explain the death, the kids have to deal with Tenma rejecting Astro. That happened in A.I. too but that wasn’t a kids movie. Now you’re making kids deal with death and rejection. I’m all for it, but man that’s intense.
There are some complex ideas as throwaway incidents. Astro learns Calculus and Kant. There’s military grade weaponry getting discussed and developed. The film is determined to respect kids, maybe more than they’ll want to be respected, but it’ll be challenging.
Then there’s just fun toys. Every little power Astro has is cool. It’s action packed with robot chases and fights. They shatter buildings, tear up the streets and pummel each other. Except for the big scary bad guy, the robots are just adorable. The robot poop joke is cute.
The humor is more social than pop culture. They play with universal images like the cliché proposal, diners complaining to waiters and sunbathers. You don’t have to know the current trends to get it but they’re still having fun with stuff from our society.
The part I didn’t like was the surrogate family Astro finds on the surface below Metro City. That felt like the typical Disney structure of outcasts finding a new family. Also, those kids say “Dude” and that felt too much of our world and out of place in Astro’s.
As someone who doesn’t respond to manga or anime, and is sick of CGI animated movies (really all non-Pixar animated movie these days, whatever the format), Astro Boy kept my attention. I took the perspective as a kid watching cool robots and it worked. Not memorable, but solid entertainment.