Astro Boy (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Bowers|
|Story by||David Bowers|
|Based on||Astro Boy|
by Osamu Tezuka
|Music by||John Ottman|
|Edited by||Robert Anich Cole|
|Distributed by||Summit Entertainment|
|Box office||$42 million|
Astro Boy is a 2009 Hong Kong–American computer-animated superhero film loosely based on the manga series of the same name by the Japanese writer and illustrator Osamu Tezuka. It was produced by Imagi Animation Studios, and directed by David Bowers, who co-wrote the screenplay with Timothy Harris. Freddie Highmore provides the voice of Astro Boy in the film alongside the voices of Nicolas Cage, Bill Nighy, Eugene Levy, Nathan Lane, Kristen Bell, Matt Lucas, Charlize Theron, and Donald Sutherland.
The film was released by Summit Entertainment. This was the last film produced by Imagi Animation Studios before the company shut down on February 5, 2010. The film was first released in Hong Kong on October 8, 2009, and in the United States on October 23, 2009. It received mixed reviews from film critics and was a box office bomb, earning $42 million worldwide on a $65 million budget.
Tobio Tenma (Tobi for short) is a gifted 13-year-old boy who lives in Metro City, a futuristic city-state that floats above the now-polluted surface of earth. Tobi’s father, Dr. Tenma, is a famous roboticist and head of the Ministry of Science, but has a distant relationship with Tobi. Dr. Tenma meets the city's obstructive leader President Stone to demonstrate a new defensive robot called the Peacekeeper, to be powered by Tenma's friend Dr. Elefun's newest creations, the Blue and Red Cores, two energy spheres that emit respective opposing positive and negative energy. Against the scientists' warnings, Stone, desperate to win a re-election, loads the Red Core into the Peacekeeper. This causes it to go berserk and Tobi, who had snuck into the room, is accidentally disintegrated by the Peacekeeper before it can be shut down.
A distraught-driven Tenma secretly constructs a robotic replica of Tobi, complete with all of Tobi's memories, but with built-in defenses to protect him. Powered by the Blue Core, the replica is activated and believes himself to be Tobi, but although he has Tobi's mind and a similar personality, it makes him become an unfortunate reminder to Tenma about Tobi's death. The replica discovers his robotic capabilities including the ability to understand non-talking robots and rocket-powered flight, but he flies away upon learning from Tenma about his origins and being rejected by him, much to Elefun's sadness. Stone has his forces pursue the replica, but the battle leads to him falling off the city edge onto the surface when Stone's flagship blasts him with missiles. Tenma escapes arrest by agreeing to deactivate the replica and give up the core.
The replica awakens in an enormous junkyard, created from the redundant robots dumped by Metro City. He meets a group of children, illiterate but smart Zane, twins Sludge and Widget, and the oldest Cora who has a grudge against Metro City, that are accompanied by a dog-like waste disposal robot named Trashcan. The replica also meets the members of the Robot Revolutionary Front (RRF), Sparx the brains, Robotsky the muscle, and Mike the Fridge, who wish to free robots from mankind's control, but they are very inept and bound by the Laws of Robotics. However, they give the replica a new name, calling him "Astro". Astro departs with the children and finds people still live on the surface. He is taken in by robot repairman Hamegg, who also runs a robot fighting ring. The next day, Astro comes across an old, offline construction robot, Zog, whom he revives by sharing some of the Blue Core's energy. Hamegg accidentally scans Astro, finding out he is a robot, and paralyzes him with his electrical blaster the next day to use him in the fighting ring.
Astro reluctantly defeats Hamegg's fighters until Zog is deployed. He refuses to fight Zog, and finds that Zog refuses to fight him. When Hamegg cruelly assaults them both, Zog, who predates the Laws of Robotics, fights back. However, Astro protects Hamegg. Stone's forces arrive to take Astro back to Metro City, and he willingly goes with them. Reuniting with Tenma and Elefun, Astro agrees to be deactivated, apologizing to his father for not being a satisfying way to replace Tobi. Realizing that even though Astro isn't Tobi, he's still his son, Dr. Tenma reactivates him and lets him escape. Furious, Stone reloads the Red Core into the Peacekeeper to send it after Astro, only for it to absorb him and take on his personality. The Peacekeeper then absorbs weapons and buildings, causing it to become as big as skyscrapers and terrorizes Metro City, prompting Astro to battle it. During the fight, as Astro's surface friends try to help him, Metro City's power station is destroyed, causing it to fall to the ground. Astro uses his superhuman strength to help it land safely.
The Peacekeeper tries absorbing Astro to obtain his core, but the connection of their cores causes them both pain before separating them. Dr. Tenma finds Astro and informs him if the two cores unite, they will be destroyed. When the children are captured, Astro selflessly flies into the Red Core, destroying the Peacekeeper. Stone survives but is arrested for his actions. Elefun and the children find Astro's body, mostly intact but lifeless. Zog however, revives Astro by sharing back the Blue Core energy that revived him. As Astro reunites with all his friends and his father, the city is suddenly attacked by a monstrous cycloptic extraterrestrial, and Astro immediately leaps into action.
- Freddie Highmore as Astro and Toby Tenma, Astro is a robotic duplicate of Toby, Dr. Tenma's son.
- Nicolas Cage as Dr. Tenma, Toby's father, Astro's creator, and head of Metro City's Ministry of Science.
- Kristen Bell as Cora, a teenage girl who lives on the surface and befriends Astro.
- Bill Nighy as Dr. Elefun, Dr. Tenma's friend & associate; and as Robotsky, the muscle of the Robot Revolutionary Front.
- Donald Sutherland as President Stone, the ruthless and highly ambitious President of Metro City who is running for re-election.
- 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 cowardly robotic 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 that eats rubbish.
- Elle Fanning as Grace, a girl from Hamegg's house who kicks President Stone in the leg.
- Ryan Stiles as Mr. Mustachio, Tobio'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 an all-CGI film, with Angry Films and Jim Henson Productions producing it for a 2004 release. A screenplay draft was written, but the film did not go into production, and Leighton left in early 2003 to pursue other film projects. In June 2004, animator Genndy Tartakovsky was hired 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.
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, features that the filmmakers thought 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 slimmer. Also there were issues on Astro's rear end being too small, and that too was altered. 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 white shirt, and a blue 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. A model of a motionless Astro Boy waiting to be powered up was set up at Peak Tower, Hong Kong, outside Madame Tussauds Hong Kong in September 2009. A panel of the film was held at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 23, 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 136 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, indicating "mixed or average 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 a flop 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 a box office bomb in the U.S., opening at #6, grossing $6.7 million,, losing out to the similarly retro Where the Wild Things Are. It remained in the Top 10 for three weeks. When it closed in January 2010, it had a total gross of $20 million. Due to these factors, the film would only produce a worldwide gross of $44.6 million against a $65 million budget.
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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