After Dr. Tenma loses his son Toby to a military test gone awry, he attempts to recreate his likeness in the form of an android. Given the name Astro Boy by kids on the surface world, the new "˜being' is hunted by the evil President for his "heart", a piece of star that can provide an almost unlimited amount of energy to anyone who possesses it. When push comes to shove, Astro Boy begins to see his role in the world, understanding his true purpose is to be a hero and protect Metro City.
While this reviewer is not entirely knowledgeable on everything Astro Boy, fans of the original film should notice some key differentials. For one, the movie is not set in Japan, but instead on the floating Metro City. Not to mention that this film has toned down the maturity involved with the first film, opting for a "˜kiddified' version; one that should attract a much younger audience.
The voice acting was on par with any other animated movie, though it failed to set itself apart all the same. Donald Sutherland had fun as the evil President, while Bill Nighy conjured up a great turn as Dr. Elefun, a friend of Dr. Tinman's. His ability to deliver emotion and sympathy with just his voice speaks volumes for his talent, as well as his overall understanding of the character.
On the other side of things, Nathan Lane fell flat with his take on Ham Egg, an unfortunate surprise for me. He hardly ever falls flat in animated movies, but there were certain scenes were I was pulled out of the film by his unusual tone and delivery. The other drawback was Nicolas Cage. In no other animated feature have I ever felt more blasé about a voice actor than here as Cage's voice never changed, remaining constant whether he be happy, sad or entirely indifferent. The writing was standard for a kid's film, and that was to be expected. When the first Toby dies, a feeling of dread and loss overcame the audience. But as one might expect, Cage found a way to ruin the moment.
The animation that comprised the feature was very good. IMAGI Studios is really starting to come along animation wise, and it really shows here. An opening sequence can make or break a film, and this opening definitely got me interested as it carried a fifties art deco theme. One scene that really stands out is when Astro Boy is in the grass and you see the individual blades blowing in the wind. It might not sound like much on paper, but the sight of such detail is nothing short of extraordinary.
Intermixed within the story are certain political undertones. For instance, the President wants to start a war because he is running for re-election. An environmental plot also earns some screen time since Metro City exists because Earth has become unsustainable for human life. Nothing too challenging, but the political angle is always worth noting.
In the end, Astro Boy is a cute movie meant for kids, but it includes some jokes that will appeal to the older generations. This isn't really a movie that one needs to rush out and see, but for the price of a matinee showing or a DVD rental, it is worthy.