Truth be told I'm not too acquainted with Astro Boy, other than reading up here and there, and seeing how popular he is in Kyoto that his stature appears almost everywhere near the main JR Station. Which of course the film has suited me fine, approaching it without baggage to watch an origin story right down to how Astro Boy loses his shirt for that naked upper body iconic look.
Star scientist Tenma (Nicholas Cage) of Metro City spends an enormous time on his job, neglecting his extremely bright son Toby (Freddie Highmore). A lab accident spells the death of the boy, and in grief, Taman creates a cloned robot of his son, and hey presto, Astro Boy is conceived, as Tenma puts into this robot a whole slew of self-defense weapons from his butt machine guns (no kidding!) to the iconic boots rocket boosters, because of a guilt-reflex that he had let down his son, and have left him exposed without being there to protect him properly.
There are enough of the usual themes here in this 94 minute movie which makes it pretty accessible, such as life, death, destiny and the yearning for friendship and acceptance, of who you are, and for others to see beyond oneself with prejudiced notions, which for Astro Boy's case, the misconception of a robot without heart nor emotion. Powered by some blue-energized meteor, it's like a tale of renewable energy sources that spells the future of mankind's effort in maintaining a paradise that is Metro City, though the by-product waste in red-energy is fairly unstable, and makes for a good source of power for the evil President Stone (Donald Sutherland) and his warmongering robot ironically called The Peacekeeper, in a kooky plan for re-election. and war.
Narratively, this film was safely stuck in "safe" mode throughout, and there were some shades of other super-powered films that can be seen here, such as the final scene mimicking Pixar's The Incredibles, or inspired by Bryan Singer's Superman Returns in that Atlas lift of a troubled, enormous piece of land mass, and what every self-respecting origin super-hero movie will have, a montage or set action sequence of the initial discovery of powers, which allowed for Astro Boy to show off in some ways, his uncanny abilities, some of which though you'll have to wait until the final battle for it to be discovered, and exploited.
Needless to say, in between the set action sequences, the film sagged a little in the middle act as it tried its very best to humanize this robotic boy, and the introduction of a myriad of human children and robotic characters, in it to interact with our titular hero, with the latter inserted nothing more than for some cheap laughter, like requisite jesters. But when the action scenes are very well made, engaging and entertaining, that all is forgiven when you see Astro Boy in full flight and fight, with the finale battle something of an adrenaline rush.
The animators at Imagi Studios did a great job in delivering this film to expectations, graphic wise, and amongst all the robots, I preferred The Peacemaker best amongst all the mechanical creations, given his ability for fusion which allows for one really awesome looking make of a robot to grace on screen looking good as well as possessing enough opposing power to Astro Boy. An A-list voice cast also helped, with actors such as Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Bill Nighy, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlize Theron and Kristen Bell all chipping in.
I would have preferred to see this in 3D, but tough luck as we won't have that version playing here in the cinemas. What a sight that would be, just to watch Astro Boy in full 3D glory, but even when without that gimmick, this film turned out to beat my expectations, and this boy really soars.