Astro Boy


Directed by: David Bowers
Written by:David Bowers
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Kristen Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, Eugene Levy, Nathan Lane, Matt Lucas
Released: October 15, 2009
Grade: B-

Astro Boy was my favourite cartoon show as a kid.  Whether it be on before school or after school, I’d switch on the ABC and watch an episode that I’d probably seen a dozen times before.  He’s still my favourite super hero… which may be useful information if you’re trying to profile me.

My self-indulgent introduction serves a purpose.  I want to point out that I had very high expectations walking into the theatre.  How could I not?  So the fact that I’m not a huge fan of this modern-day remake should be taken with a grain of salt… unless of course you too loved the 1980s television series (or even the 1960s series for cult followers).

The first half of the film introduces us to Astro Boy.  Well, he’s not known as Astro Boy just yet.  This name is Toby (voiced by Freddie Highmore) and he’s an extremely intelligent kid who lives in the not-to-distant future.  His dad, Dr. Tenma (Cage) is one of the world’s leading robotic scientists and has helped create a wave of robots which has served man’s needs.

Sadly, Toby is killed in a tragic accident at the Ministry Of Science.  It’s an unbearable loss for Tenma and overcome by emotion, he designs and builds a robotic version of Toby.  He thinks that it’s help with his grief.  He gives the robot special powers so that he can never be harmed.  These powers include super-human strength and the ability to fly.

Tenma creates a perfect replica of his son but it’s just not the same.  He confides in his good friend, Dr. Elefun (Nighy) and decides that the robot should be destroyed.  He cannot play god.  Toby hears of his father’s plans and escapes before it is too late.  He is now a robot orphan with nowhere to go.

Just when everything appears hopeless, Toby will find his place in the world.  He makes a bunch of new friends and comes up with a new name – Astro Boy.  His services will be required if he’s to save his friends from an evil dictator (Sutherland) looking to send the world into complete chaos.  Go Astro!

I struggled with the first hour of the film and can see that writer-director David Bowers has marketed this at a young audience.  It’s very PG and easy to understand.  I enjoyed it a lot more once the action and adventure took hold in the final half-hour.  It’s reignited my interest to buy the original cartoons on DVD and take a trip down memory lane.

The film isn’t being released in the United States until next week and I do hope that it finds success at the box-office.  Despite my lukewarm review, I would like to see a sequel – a film which shows us what Astro is truly capable of.  He’ll defend us, he’ll defend us, the amazing Astro Boy!