DIR: David Bowers • WRI: Timothy Harris • PRO: Maryann Garger • DOP: Pepe Valencia • ED: Robert Anich Cole • DES: Phillip Barker • CAST: Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Bill Nighy, Freddie Highmore
Astro Boy was originally a Japanese comic from the 1950s and was developed into a cult animated TV series in the 1960s. Now, in 2009 it has been translated to the big screen as a computer-animated feature by David Bowers of Flushed Away (2006) fame. The opening of Astro Boy is narrated by Charlize Theron, who explains that in the future, the human population will depend on robots as a workforce and to serve them in their every need.
Toby Tenma (voiced by Freddie Highmore) is a thirteen-year-old boy, who does well in school. Toby is interested in his father’s work. His father, Dr. Tenma (voiced by Nicolas Cage), is the head of the Ministry of Science in the fictional town of Metro City. The devilish President Stone (voiced by Donald Sutherland) wants the ministry’s latest discovery of positive and negative energy to activate and control the ‘Peacekeeper’ military robot to get him re-elected as president. Toby dies in a freak accident at the ministry when the ‘Peacekeeper’ is being tested with negative energy.
Dr. Tenma is devastated and decides to revive Toby with positive energy and makes him a robot, with the same memories and feelings as Toby. Toby soon discovers his identity and that he has super powers. He goes to another city and encounters some new friends among them Cora (voiced by Kristen Bell). She and her friends take an interest in Toby who keeps the fact that he is a robot a secret. Toby also encounters the ‘Robot Revolutionary Front’, three old English robots who are against the treatment of robots by Hamegg (voiced by Nathan Lane) who just so happens to be the father figure of Toby’s new friends.
Donald Sutherland’s character has an extraordinary animated likeness to himself in appearance. President Stone’s scheming to retain the positive energy at any length becomes tiresome and through the action scenes the script runs out of steam because these characters are not interesting. Astro Boy has its moments of cheesy one-liners and loud special effects. But the journey that Astro Boy takes is dense and predictable. The blaring over-use of John Ottman’s music and the level of sentimentality wound the film severely. It becomes manipulative and forced. However, the ‘Robot Revolutionary Front’ will keep you amused with some decent one-liners.
(See biog here)