Astro Boy Review

Thanks for checking out our Astro Boy review. If you’d like to see a video version of our Astro Boy review you can watch it at the bottom of the written review below.

Like “Speed Racer” before it, Astro Boy was destined to bomb at the box office. Like Speed Racer, a semi-recognizable name that is too far removed from its days of popularity to the point that it lacked enough of a built in audience. Still, that doesn’t mean that the movie itself can’t be good (Speed Racer wasn’t). So off I went to see Astro Boy and I was very surprised by how strongly it started… but not so surprised about how it all went downhill from there.

THE GENERAL IDEA

The synopsis for Astro Boy reads something like this: “Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist in the image of the son he has lost. Unable to fulfill the grieving man’s expectations, our hero embarks on a journey in search of acceptance, experiencing betrayal and a netherworld of robot gladiators, before he returns to save Metro City and reconcile with the father who had rejected him.”

THE GOOD

Without question the very best thing about Astro Boy was the hard hitting, and rather dark, first act that introduced us to the story. It was NOT what I was expecting. We are introduced to the brilliant scientist Dr. Tenma (voiced by Nic Cage) and his his bright excitable son. Being a kids film, I expected some sort of accident to happen where Dr. Tenma had to turn his son into a robot/cyborg in order to save his life and thus turn him INTO Astro Boy. What the film gave us was much darker. The son dies, and in his grief Dr. Tenma creates a Robot in his son’s image to replace him. He gives the robot all the weaponry and defenses science has conceived of to make sure nothing ever happend to this version of his son like it did to the last one. The emotional depth if this was surprisingly effective, and it got even better as the doctor realizes the robot does not replace his son, and only serves to remind him of what he lost… leading to him rejecting the robot (Astro Boy). This whole component, in my opinion, was handled brilliantly and gave the rest of the movie a solid base to launch from.

Some of the action in the film was quite visually appealing from both the perspectives of animation and cinematography. Those elements help the film become something quite pleasant to look at… if there was no sound… but unfortunately there was. Which leads us too…

THE BAD

After the effective first act, the film just spirals out of control to become the cheesy, cliche riddled, unfunny, uninteresting, ineffective piece of cinematic drivel we all feared it would be.

One of my pet peeves in movies are useless characters. Characters who serve no function other that to take up valuable screen time and whose presence would not be missed in the slightest if they were to suddenly disappear. There are a group of these characters called the Robot Revolutionary Front. A small group of three robots dedicated to freeing robots from human enslavement. They don’t… do… ANYTHING. Their actions and presence have absolutely no effect, positively or negatively on the story or the path of the film. The movie itself acknowleges this at the end when Astro looks to them and say “Thanks for everything” to which the robots respond “well… I guess we didn’t actually DO anything”. So true… so true. If you’re going to have useless characters taking up screen time… at least make them funny or entertaining is SOME way. These things weren’t.

I need to do an editorial post about this later… but WHY DO THESE ANIMATED MOVIES FEEL THE NEED TO USE ALL HIGH PROFILE ACTORS FOR THE VOICE ROLES?!?!?! It’s stupid. The only voice that remotely worked was that of Bill Nighy who voices Dr. Tenma’s best friend. All the other voices were flat, emotionless and usually distracting. What ever happened to using… you know… trained VOICE actors for these movies? But I’ll go into that in another post later.

OVERALL

Astro Boy stars off with a bang, but then echoes out into an android like whimper. Clearly little to no thought was put into this movie other than “Hey, let’s do an Astro Boy movie”. No good humor, no interesting characters, no story and a completely wasted fantastic introduction leaves this film wanting. Because of how effective I thought the first act was, I’ll go so far as to give Astro Boy a 4.5 out of 10.

You can see our video Astro Boy Review below:

33 thoughts on “Astro Boy Review

  1. Couple of things,
    1 the voice acting is fine – the problem with nic cage voice acting is that when I heard his accent for some reason I got uncomfortable not seeing his face. something about his accent needs his face to go with it. but this feeling subsided quick enough.
    2. this is quite a serious film but a film made entirely for kids, genuinely, there is no subtle sexual inuendo, or in adult humour or deep adult themes that you find in most of the animated stuff these days, there is also very little slapstic. Yet it does not dumb down its themes, it treats the kids watching as intelegent human beings. My daughters seemed to love this film adnd I must admit that I enjoyed it too.
    3. The visuals are not supposed to be the same as cars or ice age. I think the visuals team have done a stunning job and shown well thought restraint not venturing too far away from the cartoon roots. It looks and feels very much like a turbocharged cartoon. I really appreciate this and it is the first time I think CGI has been used to update a cartoon and done it well.
    Most of the characters are engaging, the simple hero story is well done, and there is enough emotional content to give it depth.

    I really liked this and I am supprised by the bad reviews. But I think there are alot of adults reviewing a real kids film from an adult point of view and getting it wrong. Cars, Iceage, walle etc, good films but they are adult films cleverly diquised as kids films so we get suckered in. This is a rear example of something purer, and simpler, and truer. a propper kids film.

  2. I’m 50/50 on your review John. With the use of too many “big name” actors for voice roles and the opening, I totally agree with you. However, as a fan of the TV show, I think that the movie did quite well in keeping true to the story of Astro Boy, but updating it mildly (if memory serves me well) to mainstream it for today. We seem to forget that this show was not that big for some time, and I think it showed with the lack of a big marketing budget, leading to the disappointing opening weekend numbers.

    Could the story have been better? Sure, but I think this is a springboard to relaunch a TV series and not another movie. That’s where this story will find its audience. In TV, you’ll need the “useless, do nothing” characters to fill some storylines, which might be one of the reasons the “Revolution” is included in the film.

    Personally, I’d rate the movie (for entertainment value only) at a 6.5/10. I also wish it was better, but without having the marketing machine blitz the hell out of it, I never expected it to do all that well.

    Anxiously awaiting your post on the Voice Actors vs Mainstream Complancency.

  3. From the sound of your review it seems they pretty much kept the movie as is after showing an unfinished cut to focus groups.

    The kiddo and I were part of one and we both HATED those stupid revolutionary robots they were worthless, non-funny and a waste of time. The other kids in the group seemed mostly indifferent to them. Every time they popped up (which felt like a lot) I was pulled out of the movie. I disliked Nic Cage voicing the Dr. and Highmore did alright as Astro Boy, but honestly this movie might have benefited from using actual voice actors (I agree with your statement whole heartily) and the deleting of some useless characters.
    The kid and I will probably check out the movie once on DVD only so we can see the completed animation cut.

  4. Where’s the fight for Albert Brooks?

    Hey, these are cartoons BTW and most of the Non-Pixar stuff does’nt hold water at all…This was a cute flick with a hard hittin’ story and some sweet action sequences. Now were seeing Magna and Anime come hollywood mainstream.. I’m not a fan of this genre but this was a pleasent film…As for voice actors vs. celebrities I agree , some DO totally take away from the final product.. Seth rogan, Nic Cage, are terrible and should not be allowed to do it… but this is something the Studios do so , F-IT!

  5. Some great points John – Bring back true voice actors! I should watch an animated film and hear the likes of Cullen, Welker, Di Maggio, Billy West, Castella etc…..not Nic F***ing Cage!

  6. There’s a lot of word on the net revolving this movie supposedly containing socialist and Marxist themes. From an article put out by Moviefone:

    October 8, 2009

    Crude posters of Lenin and Trotsky adorn the threadbare walls of an office in a desolate part of town, and a group of outcast revolutionaries hatch a scheme to overthrow the ruling powers and bring equality and a classless society to mankind. The beginning of an Eisenstein film? Bunuel? Renoir?

    Try ‘Astro Boy,’ the upcoming animated film featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage and Kristen Bell about a boy robot (Freddie Highmore) that leaves his scientist father after finding out he isn’t human. Ostensibly a film for children — with a fringe following of fanboys, thanks to its comic book series — the movie features very adult ideas of ownership and class structure that will most likely be future fodder for college philosophy classes around the country.

    While it’s no secret that Hollywood films tend to skew left in general, ‘Astro Boy’ may be the first animated blockbuster to discuss, if not necessarily endorse, explicit Marxist ideologies (albeit in cute robot form, of course.) In the movie, the aforementioned outcasts, led by Robotsky, form the Robot Revolutionary Front, stenciling their logo on city walls and chanting “Viva La Robotolution” at anyone within earshot. On the whole, it’s played for laughs, but makes us ponder the question:

    Have animated films gotten more leftist in recent years?

  7. John completely lost me on his “WHY DO THESE ANIMATED MOVIES FEEL THE NEED TO USE ALL HIGH PROFILE ACTORS FOR THE VOICE ROLES?” point, and perhaps he’ll make a better case for his gripe for it later. I’ll slightly give a rebuttal right here and now.

    Granted, one of the best animated films in recent years- or perhaps the best in this decade- that being WALL-E mostly used non-high profile actors. The actors whose names stand out voiced supporting characters.

    But should I enjoy “Toy Story” less because Tom Hanks voices a role? Should I have disliked “Kung Fu Panda” because of the lead was voiced by Jack Black? While the “Shrek” franchise has simply gotten too big for its britches, it did not bother me of all the names in that film. Did Robin Williams tick me off in ‘Aladdin’ because the Genie was voiced by the actor, and it was clearly “Robin Williams”?

    Perhaps it depends on the film itself?
    More to come.

    1. There is a very difficult struggle to bring legitimacy to an animated movie and none seem to gross 50-100M (a moderate success). You either have an Ice Age or a Wall-E which breaks the 200M bar or you get a Doogal or Delgo which completely bombs. I think that celebrity voice work is a very desperate attempt by studios to bring that much-needed legitimacy when selling their animated picture to the millions of suspicious parents who only swear by Pixar and that Spielberg studio responsible for Shrek. My counterpoint to asking why they do it would be: What else can they do to make it legitimate?

      1. It’s not as if he’s saying that if a celebrity does a voice in an animated film that decreases the quality of the film, he’s saying that their voices didn’t fit. Toy Story shouldn’t be ridiculed because Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are the lead voices, because their voices fit the characters, same as Jack Black and Robin Williams. But Pixar doesn’t completely rely on celebrities to do all the voices, they’ll get a few big names and a couple of random schmoes around the studio to do some important characters like the turtle in Finding Nemo or the dog in Up.

      2. I agree that when the voices don’t fit, it’s a waste… the legitimacy is more of a marketing issue and the only reason why they’d do it anyways.

      3. Yeah, it never works really… Arthur and The Invisibles had the most impressive combination I have seen: Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and David Bowie and it still bombed mesirably. The only exception to this whole discussion is Hoodwinked. Not sure how Harvey Weinstein pulled that one off, but it sure did find its legitimacy (thanks to Anne Hathaway? Who knows really!)

      4. Lately I’ve had no interest in any animated movie not made by Pixar. I’ve been disappointed with previous animated movies that have not and have never been disappointed with a Pixar film, even Cars was good IMO.

  8. I’m so with John on this voice acting stuff. Sure, there are many fine examples of bog actors doing fine voice jobs. But there are just as many failures, which end in impending doom when you get the feeling that the whole story was written around the voice actors and not the actual characters. Shark Tale is such an example.

    Aside from that it doesn’t really look good for this movie. The more I read about it the less I want to watch it. Well, perhaps I’ll give it a chance in TV.

  9. I enjoyed the movie a lot. Only voice actor that kinda bugged me was Nic Cage. I thought whoever did the voice for Astro was fine, and Kristen Bell I thought was fine. Did not have a problem with the Revolutionary Front either. I saw them as an introduction to the fact that something not quite right was happening with the robots on the surface. That they were the only group standing up against the use of robots for gladiator games. Sure they did not do a very good job at it, but their characters were there for a reason. Maybe I am just reading into that, though, maybe seeing something that isn’t really there? Ya, the movie wouldn’t change much without em, but they definitely existed in the world for a reason.

    1. Another couple characters that served no purpose that would change the movie of their absence were the window washers. But again, in the presentation of the world they did have a purpose to further establish that humans use robots for everything, and plus they also added a little comedy for the kids in the midst of an otherwise dark atmosphere.

  10. John,

    The Revolutionary Front characters were there to make the kids laugh. Quite needed in a movie that had scenes that were so relatively dark and intense for the younger kids in the audience – not to mention the beat-you-over-the-head political rhetoric.

    Vic

    1. In “UP” Doug was a character that I think was made ONLY to make kids laugh so that the sad story is somewhat overshadowed with some cute humor

      But notice that they still managed to make him very relevant to the story.

      “Squirrel!” =]

  11. Even Pixar does that shit too though.

    The whole… big name actor doing the voice for their animated characters.

    Not as much as Dreamworks Animations but they still fucking do it a lot.

    1. Define “a lot”? Pixar mostly uses past TV actors who’s voices are somewhat familiar but rarely identifiable to the common movie goer.

      Sometimes the actors become famous after the role but rarely before. Tom Hanks was known for Bosom Buddies, Big, and Joe vs. the Volcano before he was hired to voice Woody. He just happened to win two Oscars by the time the movie came out a few years later.

      Here is a list of the major actors successes at the time of their hiring:
      John Ratzenberger (Cheers)
      Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies)
      Tim Allen (1 season of Home Improvement)
      Dave Foley (NewsRadio)
      Julia Louis Dreyfus (Seinfeld)
      Kevin Spacey (Se7en)
      Joan Cusack (psuedo-brat packer)
      Wayne Knight (Seinfeld)
      Billy Crystal* (didn’t have a recent success since City Slickers, his voice was known to most)
      John Goodman (Rosanne)
      Albert Brooks (Simpsons)
      Ellen Degeneres (Ellen)
      Craig T. Nelson (Coach)
      Holly Hunter (early 90’s Oscar winner)
      Samuel L. Jackson* (yea, I know, but he really didn’t have many lines in the movie)
      Owen Wilson* (not the most famous at the time, but more than most of the others on this list)
      Bonnie Hunt(the “friend” in romantic movies)
      Patton Oswalt (comedian)
      Lou Romano (animator)
      Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
      Ed Asner (Mary Tyler Moore)

      1. Im not ripping on Pixar movies. Im a HUGE Pixar fan.
        They do it too much for my taste.

        Um, read your list again broh. Sam Jackson? Owen Wilson? Tom Hanks? Patton Oswalt? Kevin Spacey?
        Youre not putting up a very convincing argument.

        Please dont underrate Patton Oswalt, hes awesome. And everyone knows his voice.

      2. Not taking one sider or the other here, but!!!!

        In regard to Tom Hanks. He was in Philadelphia and Forest Gump before Toy Story, and Apollo 13 came out the same year as Toy Story. He was definitely a big name actor prior to Toy Story. Not to mention other big hits prior to Toy Story that he was in, such as: League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, Dragnet, and for me The Man with One Red Shoe and Splash.

        He had a huge career and was very well known prior to Toy Story. Don’t try to down play him to make your point.

      3. I think the the key difference between Pixar and other Animation studios is the motivation behind the selection of voice talent. Other studios go for the big names for popularity sake and to try to use that popularity to bring in a crowd; whereas, Pixar’s voice actor selection is chosen to best enhance what they have already created and to strengthen the story they are trying to tell. I don’t know, I probably did a shoddy job explaining that, but I hope you get what I am trying to say.

      4. I’m not saying Tom hanks wasn’t a big actor, he just wasn’t a marquee actor when he was hired and was fading to obscurity. “Joe Vs the Volcano” flopped and if his next movie flopped Tom Hanks would have been another has-been (he admits this). Pixar did not hire him for his “name” they hired him for his talent. He recorded Toy Story before he film Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, or Apollo 13. The thing about animated films is the actors record their lines 2 years before the film comes out. Sometimes the actor is more popular when their movie is released, sometimes they have already faded to obscurity. I only listed the actors’ most recent claim to fame at the time they were hired to record their lines.

        And James, Patton Oswalt is not famous to movie goers and few know his voice. I’ll grant you Samuel L. Jackson (who had a relatively small part) and Owen Wilson, but Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey were not marquee names when they were hired for their films. But they are definitely famous now. Hayden Panettiere is “famous” now and was also in a Bug’s Life but she definitely wasn’t a marquee name then.

        Still, we are talking two names in 14 years. That is not “a lot”.

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