Astro Boy Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated October 23rd, 2009 at 6:31 pm,

Short Version: While the animation is excellent, Astro Boy is too intense for younger kids, too corny for teens and annoyingly political overall.

astro boy comic con 6 Astro Boy Review
Screen Rant reviews Astro Boy

I went into Astro Boy with high hopes and nostalgia. I’m actually old enough to remember watching the original cartoon back when I was a kid, and being a sci-fi kind of geek even as a wee child, remember enjoying the futuristic show about a robot boy who could fly and had all kinds of cool weapons. Trailers and clips looked good so although I expected a kids’ film, I was looking forward to this and brought along my 13 year old daughter and a friend of hers.

All three of us were of the same opinion: It was a waste of an hour and a half.

There will be some spoilers in this review, but as it’s a movie aimed at kids, and I’m writing this review for parents, I hope you won’t mind.

I swung 180 degrees in my opinion between the time the opening credits began and ended – at first the animation and dramatic music drew me in right off the bat and it looked like we might be in for something good. But then I started seeing the names of the voice actors… one well-known name after another, after another. Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlize Theron, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, and more. Do I have anything against any of these actors? Not at all. So what was the problem?

More often than not when there is an animated film with a star-studded cast it’s a very good indication that you’re in for a very mediocre movie.

Don’t ask me WHY this so – it just is (in my experience).

As Astro Boy begins we are treated to a quick animated sequence showing how humanity has ruined the planet and we cut to what could be a TV commercial for moving to Metro City – a city literally in the clouds, where everyone is happy and robots do all the work people don’t want to do (including, interestingly enough “Nanny-bots”). They indicate that all is not rosy because while they float above the earth they just dump their trash and old robots over the edge to tumble down to terra firma. Oh, and people actually live on the ground, scrabbling amongst what looks like a vast garbage dump/junkyard.

The man who made this life of leisure possible via his robotic inventions is Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage), the father of Toby, a boy of about 13(?) who seems to be on his way to being as brilliant as his father. It seems that a meteorite fell to Earth and had at its core an energy source that could help restore the planet to its once pristine state – problem is that to do that it had to be split into “good” energy and “bad.” Bill Nigh plays a scientist who of course wants to use the good blue energy to bring about, well, good. But President Stone (Donald Sutherland) wants the red energy put to use to create a super-weapon robot that he can use to go to war with the surface dwellers.

In a demonstration of the robot (where things go horribly awry) Toby is killed by the evil robot. Heck of a way to start a movie aimed at kids… Anyway, Tenma is stricken with grief, takes a strand of hair from Toby and uses its DNA and the blue energy to create Astro Boy in an effort to still have his son. While Astro Boy is 90% Toby, he is different enough that Tenma shuns him. Astro Boy ends up on the surface, and is befriended by the children living there, overseen by the apparently benign robot fanatic scientist “Ham Egg” (Nathan Lane).

Eventually Astro Boy makes it back up to Metro City to battle with a giant version of a red-energy-powered robot/President Stone and saves the day.

original astro boy Astro Boy Review

The 1980s version of Astro Boy

For younger kids (I’d say maybe 6-7 and under) the final battle is pretty intense as the giant robot tries its best to kill Astro Boy (and seemingly succeeds). Also the death scene early on is a bit much – pretty hard core for a PG movie in my opinion. Throughout the film there were (to me) many annoying references to “starting a war in order to get re-elected” and an idiotic quote by the President: “Look at history, negative energy always wins.” Really? Last time I checked the Nazis lost World War II. But the topper for me was a stage set up for the President to speak at a political rally with a banner behind the podium that stated “Now is not the time for change.”

Seriously? In a kids’ film? I remember when movies for kids handed out moral messages, not political ones.

I did enjoy the animation in Astro Boy quite a bit, but then like I said, I’m a fan of the original character and he was portrayed well and voiced just fine by Freddie Highmore plus I’m just a fan of CGI animated films in general. There were also three goofy supporting characters that were quite funny, but I think my daughter’s friend summed it up best: The best thing about the end of the movie is that it meant it was over.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. hehehe nice review, its good that you give the kids opinions as well as give your own, i wanted to watch this so badly as i was a( and partially still am) a great fan of the 80s version of astro (used to watch almost all the episodes twice a week and could reside most the lines from each episode hehehe :-))
    my friedn said she’ll only watch this if they give out cheap tickets (usually when movies suck, probably an attempt to get at least some viewers) guess i’ll be joining her 😀

  2. Why so surprised??

    In Asia, state-own production companies use movies to spread political messages. According to IMDB, this movie was primarily produced by Asian Companies.

  3. I can’t believe I gave this movie a chance and saw it on opening day… IN SPITE OF saying for two years it’ll be crap. I just can’t believe they took a near-perfect property and sucked it of almost all its charm. I actually started falling asleep toward the end.

    Oh… by the way… I think that second picture is from the quite recent Sony-produced TV series, not the ’80s “classic” one (and obviously not the ORIGINAL original). ;o)

  4. *cough*Happy Feet*cough*

  5. @nick
    lol… i thought he was going to say “this… this is Pandora!!!”.

  6. I remember the first episodes they showed on TV in glorious black and white. From What I read a few days earlier it’s basically a remake of the original story from all those years ago. The only plus to this is maybe they’ll make some suffient cash to write a sequel based on the only really good story this show ever had “Mystery of Amless Dam.”

  7. Hmmmm …

    Hey Vic, my 8-year old daughter wants to see it. She watched “Where the Wild Things Are” and wasn’t scared or upset by it. Do you think this movie and the “death” scenes still may be too much for a kid her age?
    I’m leaning towards that no it wouldn’t, but would welcome your opinion.


  8. @INK

    Well the death scene wasn’t gruesome – Toby just vanished. If she was fine with WTWTA she should be OK with this.


  9. @Kane

    Doh! Thanks for pointing that out – I’ll need to fix it when I have a chance.


  10. Thanks Vic!

  11. Thanks Vic, I really wanted to see this. I will wait for the DVD.

  12. I personally had no interest in this movie, and I now won’t even rent it. Sad that Hollywood can’t make a kids movie without putting in a politcal message for the right OR left.

    I wonder how Samuel L. Jackson has time to eat or sleep considering how many movie projects he’s worked on or is working on.

  13. I’d say I have to mostly agree with your review. Such a disappointment. But…

    Just to keep the facts straight< the scientist is voiced by Bill Nighy -not the science guy but the one from Pirates of the Caribbean. And, the President (not General) was voiced by Donald Southerland. Sam Jackson was Zog the huge robot.

    So wish it was a better movie. Sigh.

  14. to andy s.; sorry to crash your party. This movie was produced by Asian Production Companies, not by Hollywood. Sorry…

  15. @mary

    Yeesh, that’s what I get for writing a review late at night. I’ll make those corrections, thanks!


  16. I have wait this movie for long time. I want to watch it badly. Maybe because i always watch astro boy serial since my childhood. Can not wait to see it in Blu Ray Format.

  17. Wasn’t gonna see it anyway…I was a Gigantor fan. :O)

  18. @14k
    Wow, using your theory, one should buy from Wall Mart only those items not produced in China (that might leave some food stuff) as policital messages may be being spread by those products (some of which are produced by China SOEs).
    Imagi (585 HK) however is not an SOE. The Asia head quarters is in Hong Kong. Please go find a list of the people involved in this animated feature and their past hits.

    That was an off-the-wall, purely ignorant statement as related to the company that produced Astro Boy.

  19. @14k (again)
    Yes, the producer was Imagi (585 HK). But it was directed by David Bowers (Flushed Away) and the script written by Timothy Harris (Kindergarten Cop). What’s more, most of the animation was done in Sherman Oaks, California.

  20. Wasn’t the original (Japan) Astro Boy a very anti-war, pro-civil rights manga created in a country devastated by a nuclear bomb attack? Maybe this new version is more true to the original (manga 1950s, anime 1960s) than you first thought.

  21. @Hank

    Sorry to say this, but it’s true that any movie financed by a Chinese company (as in China, not Hong Kong) is almost guaranteed to have propaganda in it… I’m Chinese BTW, I see it all the time in Chinese movies produced by China companies… They’ll mix in some kind of propaganda to any kind of movie, it’s kind of funny actually…

    Sure non-Chinese people directed it and animated it, but the script/story/dialog would have to be approved by the people giving the money, which is the Chinese production company, before they can proceed with the movie.

  22. What is with this propaganda talk anyway? We’ve been brainwashed with capitalist movies and cartoons for the last 20 years or so… Kids everywhere in the world are used to watching cartoons with deaths and all, maybe it is time we catch up!

  23. Hank says: “script written by Timothy Harris (Kindergarten Cop).”

    Sheesh, no wonder it only got two stars..

  24. Vic, I saw this with two friends. I was somewhat embarrassed walking into a sparsely populated theater where the only people had kids with them (incl pretty young kids).

    From the very first scene, the garbage dump planet, I rolled my eyes. Oh no, another propaganda film. What is with the movie industry trying to convince children that progress and technology is evil? And does anyone catch the irony that the heroes of Wall-E and this flick are, in fact, products of technology? But the other message seems to be, the world would be better off without us. Strange, they don’t show a future where we have all “wised up” and gone agrarian…

    You’re right, the WE DON’T NEED CHANGE RIGHT NOW banner was absolutely over the top. I like how the war-mongering, destructive, maniacal character just happened to be what we would call a conservative–or the caricature of one.

    As for Toby’s death, you’re right that he just disappears, but the reaction by his father is VERY dramatic and it is NOT over quickly. Funny though, the father was in remorse saying, “This is all my fault, I’m to blame.” Then the scene got quiet. A *small* kid, who we could hear from time to time asking his parents questions, blurted out in the dead silence, “That’s right! You are to blame!”

    Did you notice any mention of Toby’s mother? Some reference to her being thrown off Skytropolis or anything?

  25. I’ve gotta say, Donald Sutherland is a perfect match for that character. You know, the one that looked like the left’s characterization of Dick Chaney.

  26. have to say that after reading bad review after bad review that I really wanted to go to the movies and I gave it a shot anyway… What do I have to say??? Well the coke was good and the popcorn was wonderful, crappy movie though. Different reasons really but in the end it’s a movie that isn’t for kids, teenagers, or adults which leaves…. um…

  27. “But the other message seems to be, the world would be better off without us. Strange, they don’t show a future where we have all “wised up” and gone agrarian…”

    Because the world would be a better place without humans. Humans are destroying our planet. This is our only home right now and humans are just destroying. WE need the planet, but the planet doesn’t need us. All humnas do is make war, and kill each other and some do that only for fun. The only way there is will be peace is if the human race dies off. They can’t show a world where humans “wise up” is because humans will NEVER do that. We make the same mistkes over and over again.