Astro Boy (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Bowers|
|Produced by||Maryann Garger
|Written by||Timothy Harris
|Story by||David Bowers|
|Based on||Astro Boy
by Osamu Tezuka
|Music by||John Ottman|
|Editing by||Robert Anich Cole|
|Studio||Imagi Animation Studios
|Distributed by||Summit Entertainment|
|Running time||94 minutes|
Astro Boy, is a 2009 American CGI action superhero film loosely based on the long-running Japanese manga and anime series of the same name by Osamu Tezuka. It was produced by Imagi Animation Studios, the animation production company of TMNT. The studio announced the project in September 2006. It was directed by David Bowers and produced by Maryann Garger with Pilar Flynn as associate producer. Freddie Highmore provides the voice of Astro Boy in the film. The film also features the voices of Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucas, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Charlize Theron and Nicolas Cage. The film was released first in Hong Kong on October 8, 2009, Japan on October 10, 2009 and in the United States on October 23, 2009.
The film is set in the futuristic Metro City, a metropolis which floats in the sky above the polluted "Surface". Metro City's population is aided by a multitude of different robots who are dumped on the Surface when broken or disused. Toby, son of Dr. Tenma, learns that his father is going to show President Stone, the militaristic leader of the city, the Peacekeeper, a new guardian robot that he's been working on. Doctor Elefun, one of Tenma's colleagues, introduces Stone to the Blue and Red Cores, two energy spheres mined from a star fragment, that produce energy which can power robots via positive and negative energy, respectively. Stone places the Red Core in the Peacekeeper, causing it to go out of control. The Peacekeeper tries to attack the humans, but Tenma puts a barrier between them. Meanwhile, Toby has been released early from school, and rewires Orrin, his family's robot, in order to attend the Ministry of Science's demonstration of the Peacekeeper. Seeking to have a closer look at the Peacekeeper, Toby enters the same room as the robot, only for the Peacekeeper's first attempt to destroy the barrier to backfire with the result that Toby is totally annihilated. After the Peacekeeper is stopped by security forces, Dr. Tenma, wracked with despair, builds an identical robotic clone of Toby, using DNA from a strand of his hair to obtain his memories, which will make the robot think he is Toby and powers it with the positive blue core. He also designed it with the most advanced defence system ever created, not wanting to lose his son again. The robot quickly comes to life, and Tenma brings him home.
Tenma quickly realizes that while the robot possesses Toby's memories, his personality is far different and it can't replace his original son. Unaware that he is a robot, Toby tries to figure out why he can understand the language of some robot cleaners and discovers he can fly via rocket-boosters hidden in his shoes. He discovers various other abilities and heads home to tell his father, only to find that Tenma and Elefun are discussing deactivating him. Tenma reveals to Toby that he is robot, and how he doesn't want Toby anymore. Rejected by the person he believes to be his own father, Toby flies away. President Stone's men detect the Blue Core's energy signature and pursue Toby. Stone calls in the Spirit of Freedom: a massive, heavily armed, flying battleship. Rendered unconscious, Toby falls off the floating city and lands in the junkyard below. He meets several children including Cora, a girl who left Metro City after her parents neglected her, and a robotic dog named Trashcan. Toby meets the Robot Revolution Front: Sparx, Robotsky and Mike the Fridge, who easily identify Toby as a robot and rename him "Astro". Astro goes along with his new name and lives with the children and their fatherly figure, Hamegg, who appears to care for broken robots, but secretly treats robots just as callously as Stone, and also runs the Robot Games: destructive gladiatorial matches in which robots are forced to fight to the death.
Astro and his friends find an offline construction robot named ZOG, and Astro secretly revives ZOG using the energy from his own Blue Core. The kids bring him back and clean him up for the Robot Games. Later that night, Astro comes across Cora trying to call Metrocity. She reveals to him that she actually has parents and was worried if they even missed her. Astro promises not to tell and tries to tell her his secret but can't. The next day at the Hamegg games, Hamegg betrays Astro, learning of him being a robot, and pits Astro against other robots in the Robot Games. Unable to simply leave, Astro reluctantly destroys all the robots. Hamegg releases ZOG for Astro to fight, but both refuse to fight one another. Stone and his men arrive then and arrest Astro. Stone announces his plan to wage war on the surface using the blue core and the peacekeeper in the hopes of getting re-elected and mockingly offers Astro a drink of oil. Then he takes Astro back to the Ministry of Science, where Tenma is asked to remove the Blue Core; however, at the last moment, he has a change of heart, accepting that even if Astro is not Toby, he is still his son, and allows Astro to escape. Stone places the Red Core into the Peacekeeper again, only for it to absorb him and take on his consciousness. Astro and Stone fight across the city, demolishing most of the buildings and causing the city to begin crashing to Earth. Astro is able to slow Metro City's decent by flying underneath and pushing upwards with his leg-rockets. Cora, the other children, and the Robot Revolution try to help to bring down the Peacekeeper/Stone fusion. Stone catches Astro and is about to absorb him, but when the Blue and Red Cores clash, he lets Astro out due to the close proximity of the two Cores causing him great pain.
Astro lands in a building, where he reunites with Tenma. Tenma tells him that if the Blue Core and Red Core come together, Astro and the Peacekeeper will both die. Astro decides that this was the reason he was made, and flies straight toward Stone, crashing into him and merging the Cores which destroys the Peacekeeper and frees Stone (who is knocked out from the collision). However, with both Cores drained of energy, Astro is deactivated. Cora, Dr. Elefun and others find Astro's body. ZOG transfers some of his Blue Core energy to Astro; with the catalyst restarted, the Blue Core once more becomes a limitless source of energy, so Astro is easily revived and his wounds automatically heal. Astro is reunited with Dr. Tenma, and Cora finds and makes up with her parents. Stone awakes, only to be arrested by his own troops. When an alien life-form appears over the city, the film ends with Astro flying up to battle it.
- Freddie Highmore as Toby / Astro, Dr. Tenma's son who is tragically killed in the introduction. Astro is a robotic replica of Toby built in his image and with his memories. Rejected by his father, Astro is trying to find his place in the world. While in the manga, he is run by a technology called "kokoro" (Japanese for "heart"), he runs on Blue Core energy in the film.
- Nicolas Cage as Dr. Tenma, Toby's father, creator of Astro, and head of Metro City's Ministry of Science
- Kristen Bell as Cora, a tomboy kid who lives on the Surface and is Astro's best friend.
- Bill Nighy as Dr. Elefun, Dr. Tenma's friend & associate and as Robotsky of the Robot Revolutionary Front.
- Donald Sutherland as President Stone, the ruthless President of Metro City who is running for re-election who serves as the film's main antagonist.
- Samuel L. Jackson as ZOG, a 100-year-old construction robot brought back to life by Astro's blue-core energy
- Nathan Lane as Hamegg, a surface-dweller who repairs machines and then uses them in his fighting tournament
- Matt Lucas as Sparx, the leader of the Robot Revolutionary Front.
- David Bowers as Mike the Fridge, a talking refrigerator and third member of the Robot Revolutionary Front
- Charlize Theron as "Our Friends" Narrator, of an educational video seen at the film's beginning
- Eugene Levy as Orrin, Tenma's robotic and household servant
- Moisés Arias as Zane, a surface-dwelling child
- Alan Tudyk as Mr. Squeegee, a cleaning robot
- David Alan Grier as Mr. Squirt, a cleaning robot
- Madeline Carroll as Widget, Sludge's twin
- Sterling Beaumon as Sludge, Widget's twin
- Dee Bradley Baker as Trashcan, a dog-like robot who serves as a literal bin
- Elle Fanning as Grace, a girl from Hamegg's house who kicks President Stone in the leg
- Ryan Stiles as Mr. Mustachio, Toby's teacher.
- Newell Alexander as General Heckler, President Stone's head of military.
- Victor Bonavida as Sam, a teenage boy from Hamegg's house
- Tony Matthews as Cora's father
- Bob Logan as Stinger One, President Stone's pilot minion who leads a group of aircraft with suction tubes and wants to capture Astro
- Ryan Ochoa as Rick, another teenage boy from Hamegg's house
In 1997, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased the film rights to Astro Boy from Tezuka Productions, intending to produce a live-action feature film. Todd Alcott was set to write the screenplay, but the film halted in 2000 when Steven Spielberg began A.I., another film with a robot boy who replaces a dead child. In December 2001, Sony hired Eric Leighton to direct all-CGI film, with Angry Films and Jim Henson Productions producing it for a 2004 release.
In June 2004, Leighton was replaced with animator Genndy Tartakovsky to direct a live-action/animatronics/CGI feature film. After writing the script, the film didn't go into the production, and Tartakovsky left next year to direct CG-animated feature films at a new studio, Orphanage Animation Studios. Few months later it was revealed, that he was set to direct The Dark Crystal sequel, The Power of the Dark Crystal, another co-production with Jim Henson Productions.
In September 2006, it was announced that Hong Kong-based animation firm Imagi Animation Studios would produce a CGI animated Astro Boy film, with Colin Brady directing it. A year later, the studio made a three-picture distribution deal with Warner Bros. and The Weinstein Company, which also included TMNT and Gatchaman. In 2008, Summit Entertainment took over the film's distribution rights. The same year, Brady was replaced with David Bowers.
Imagi also planned to make an Astro Boy sequel if the first one would go well.
When adapting the film for a western audience and making the leap from 2D to 3D, some changes to Astro had to be made. The more challenging was his kawaii portrayal, part of which were his large eyes and curly eyelashes, which made him too feminine. Imagi had several discussions on how round and curvy Astro's body proportions should be and in the end they were made to be more lean. Also there were issues on Astro's rear end being too small, and that too was altered after talks with Tezuka. The by-product of these changes was Astro's Caucasian look.
In early development Astro's design was younger, resembling his iconic design of a 6-year-old boy. The design team changed that and made him look like a 12-year-old to appeal to a larger audience. They also gave him a shirt, and a jacket since they thought it would be strange to have a normal boy running around without one. They also replaced his heart-shaped energy core with a glowing blue one.
The score to Astro Boy was composed by John Ottman, who recorded his score with a 95-piece orchestra and choir at Abbey Road Studios. A soundtrack album was released on October 20, 2009 by Varèse Sarabande Records.
Beginning in May 2009 and continuing through September 2009, IDW Publishing published a "prequel" and comic book adaptation of the film as both mini-series and in graphic novel format to coincide with the North American release of the film in October 2009.
Astro Boy was released in the US on DVD and Blu-ray March 16, 2010, by Summit Entertainment. Both releases include two new animated sequences; a featurette with the voice cast including Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Freddie Highmore and Donald Sutherland, among others; three other featurettes about drawing Astro Boy, making an animated movie and getting the Astro Boy look; and an image gallery.
In Japan a special Limited Edition Astro Boy Premium Box Set was released. It featured the same content from the US release with the exception of it spanning on two DVDs (One the film, the other special features with two bonus features exclusive to Japanese) and has both English and Japanese dub (along with English and Japanese subtitles.) The box set also comes with a DVD (containing a single story on Astro's first flight and an image gallery), Dr Tenma's Project Notes (featuring 80 pages of CGI models, character art and set designs from the film), a Micro SD (featuring the motion manga Atomu Tanjo (Birth of Astro Boy) originally written by Osamu Tezuka), a postcard of 1980 Astro Boy flying, a small bookmark (that is actually a reel from the film inside a plastic cover) and Astro's blueprints from the film.
The film received mixed reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 50% of 129 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.6 out of 10. The site's general consensus is that "While it isn't terribly original, and it seems to have a political agenda that may rankle some viewers, Astro Boy boasts enough visual thrills to please its target demographic." On Metacritic, which assigns an average rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 53 based on 22 reviews.
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B and wrote of the film having "little too much lost-boys-and-girls mopiness", but "Astro Boy is a marvelously designed piece of cartoon kinetics..." Glenn Whipp of the Los Angeles Times gave the mixed review claiming "The kids won't get it but will enjoy the big, climactic robot rumpuses, which owe a heavy debt to Brad Bird's The Iron Giant".
The film was not a big hit in Japan, appearing at the bottom of the opening week's Top 10 rankings and earning only $328,457. Conversely, the film was very successful in China, breaking a box-office record for a CG animated film. This follows the same pattern as Dragonball Evolution and Speed Racer, other American-produced films based on Japanese sources that were not big hits in the land of their origin but were very successful in China. The film also was not a box office success in the U.S., opening at #6, grossing $6.7 million, where it remained in the Top 10 for three weeks. When it closed in January 2010, it had a total gross of $20 million.
A video game based on the film was released on October 20, 2009 by D3 Publisher to coincide with the film's theatrical release. The Wii, PlayStation 2 and PSP versions were developed by High Voltage Software, and the Nintendo DS version by Art Co., Ltd.
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- Astro Boy at AllMovie
- Astro Boy at Rotten Tomatoes
- Astro Boy at Box Office Mojo
- Astro Boy at Metacritic