Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: Astro Boy Movie

Saw this film yesterday with the kids at a local "dollar cinema." Of course a dollar cinema doesn't cost a dollar anymore, but this one is reasonably priced and pretty clean, and five minutes from our house.

As for the movie itself, the kids liked it. My seven year old son was particularly entertained and enjoyed all the action sequences. My ten year old daughter, who has read some of the Astro Boy manga in translation, thought it was fine, but wondered why they made so many changes to the storyline of the manga.

Ah, the ageless question of why adaptations make the changes that they do to stories that we love. Although I can't say that I cared a lot about Astro Boy one way or the other coming in.

The film's narrative is very simplistic. The villains are foolishly and almost pointlessly villainous, the comic relief is slapstick, and the whole question of how humans should interact with intelligent beings that they have essentially enslaved is sort of waved at in passing. There's probably more action than necessary. You won't get any insights into human dependency upon technology or the emotions of robots as you do in Wall-E. As far as the animation, it's fine but not breathtaking in any way; the characters are cartoonishly exaggerated but without much subtlety of expression, kind of like a big screen Jimmy Neutron film with less humor.

All in all, not a film I'd recommend seeing or renting unless you have younger kids interested in it. Then it's not bad to sit through as far as such things go. The enthusiasm of children can compensate for a lot of visual and narrative shortcomings.


Anonymous said...

I completely disagree. I saw it with my brothers and I was so surprised! I was blown away. I knew a little about the manga (comic), but I pretty much went into it with no expectations. It was so touching, I fell in love with Astro Boy, and the fight scenes were ubercool. I don't understand why anyone wouldn't be moved by this film; it has so much heart without being sappy. I think it's for all ages. REALLY for all ages, not a movie you have to endure while the kids watch. It was AWESOME.

Doug said...

Well, to each their own, I suppose. I think of something like the Incredibles, Spirited Away, Beauty and the Beast, Kiki's Delivery Service, or Wall-E as being great animation for young and old. I found it very predictable, which is not always a bad thing. But Tenma's reactions in particular seem to come out of nowhere; he simply changes his mind and his feelings as needed to fit the requirements of the plot, and no matter how much heartache his fickleness causes, all is immediately forgiven.

And Astro Boy spends no time at all wondering about what it means to have been a living boy transformed into a robot. Even Pinocchio did more soul searching when he transformed in the opposite direction, from artificial to real. And for all the comic relief on robot liberation, it's really not clear at all what happens to the robots at the end of the movie. Or why they have emotions in the first place.

So, a fun little film, but I can't look past how simplistically it treated the big themes that it dealt with. It's another example of a film that is technically science fiction because it has robots but is really just a magical fable and not one that I found particularly clever, unlike Wall-E, which was brilliant.

I didn't hate the movie by any means, so I'm glad you enjoyed it. Perhaps you had more blue energy that day.