Astro Boy : Robo Pinocchio [Mike’s Review]
Today on Cage Club we make a robot in our dead son’s image with Astro Boy. We are back with full on CGI animated Cage again as well as another children’s film. This movie is based on the classic Manga and Anime series Mighty Atom from Japan, created by Osamu Tezuka. I remember the iconic image of Astro the Boy Robot growing up as a kid, but I never really saw the show, I was more into Voltron and Transformers, but I did watch some episodes of the 60’s & 80’s series to prepare for this review.
The main thing about Astro Boy I noticed is that it’s basically a science fiction take on Pinocchio. A young boy named Toby gets into a car accident and his father, who happens to be the leading robotics scientist in the world, cannot handle the grief and remakes his son a a child robot. Dr. Tenma, Astro’s father, is no Gepetto though and cannot accept his son as a robot and so he disowned him, sending him out to the big bad world all on his own where he gets tricked and fooled by people wanting to take advantage of him. In the original cartoons Dr. Tenma descends into sheer madness at the Frankenstein like creation of damnation he made. So, how does the modern remake factory do with adapting this beloved children’s hero ? It certainly takes some original elements but refurbishes them to it’s liking.
Cage plays Dr. Tenma, a distracted single father who doesn’t have time for his son, Toby. They live above the surface in a floating utopia that is reminiscent of Elysium. Everyone in Sky City enjoys the 1% lifestyle of luxury. Meanwhile, the surface looks like Wall-E, a junkyard that goes on forever. I don’t recall any of this from the original story, but this imagery is popular in current science fiction movies so it gets included here too. As the story goes on there is actually too many elements crammed in, none really getting the time or attention they deserve. The floating city is strange as the humans seem to have prejudice against their robot servants, most which were designed by Tenma himself. He’s vey busy testing a new robot for the government when Toby sneaks into the room and gets killed by the very robot they are testing. This is what drives Tenma to re-create Toby as Astro Boy, not a car accident like in the original, which is just much cleaner and would have still worked better here. This death is much more brutal and dense even leave a piece of the original corpse to work with just a strand of hair and the DNA contained in that is all of Toby that survives. Tenma locked himself away and creates Astro Boy, his dead son brough back in robot form. He also heavily armed the robot so it could defend itself and not die again in some accident. Things never really gel between Tenma and Astro and Tenma pretty much rejects him and even disownes him. The father and robot son relationship is reminiscent of A.I.:Artificial Intelligence. A grieving parent gets a replacement child only to be repulsed and afraid of being around it. That is in the original story but here that theme gets short changed in order to fit everything else that is new into the story, when it was simply enough to sustain the emotional journey on it’s own. Astro retreats to the surface world where malfunctioning robots and wild children rum amok. Astro finds and fixes an ancient robot and also fights in the robot wresting match. Eventually he makes his way back to the city and saves everyone from the evil General that has merged with a war bot. Astro saves the day but the floating city has crashed back to Earth reuniting two two societies. Astro and his father reconcile, somewhat, but not really. As one point Tenma wanted to run away and told Astro that none of this was his responsibility. Astro isn’t hearing any of that though and decides that his purpose is this moment, to fight a giant robot and save the city, which he does.
Cage isn’t really doing anything much with his voice over work. He basically sounds like himself only sad and depressed because he is playing a sad character. I wish he was the robot carnival ring leader played by Nathan Lane. That role had all the fin behind it and it would have been a chance for Cage to put on an accent or do something more comical and interesting. The movie isn’t terrible,its just convoluted. There are way too many ideas and story threads bouncing around in here for a children’s film. Heck, there are some heavy and heady ideas in this for an adult science fiction movie. One thing I didn’t mention that was very unique and I think could sustain an entire movie on it’s own is the new form of energy that the scientists are testing as a rule source on the new robots. It also powers Astro Boy. There are some nice hints at how the power represents Astro’s soul, yet he’s able to recharge other robots, basically bringing them back to life, like a robo-Jesus. It’s a big idea crammed into a children’s film which originally worked because of it’s simplicity, a naive Robot Boy gets into adventures. It’s Pinocchio in the future and it seems like the one reference they missed the mark on here.
That will do it for Cage Club and Astro Boy. In the end, while I liked some of the ideas here, they never really came together. Next up Cage suits up and put on the cape as he once again gets to play a superhero in his second Comic Book movie Kick Ass !!!