I have been a fan of Astro Boy ever since I saw the animated series in the early 1980s. I never realized the series was such a phenomenon in Japan and had been around since the 1950s.
What separated Astro Boy from other cartoons of the 1980s was its emotional and poignant core story. It was groundbreaking for me when I was watching cartoons because it meant more than just trying to make me laugh or save the day.
The story of Astro Boy is about a genius robotics engineer named Doctor Tenma, who’s most treasured possession is his son Tobio (Toby in most English verions). His son’s love is all he lives for. But one day Tobio follows his dad to work to see his latest invention. Tobio gets caught when the invention malfunctions and is killed right in front of Tenma.
In Tenma’s misery he creates a perfect robotic duplicate of his son with a couple enhancements to protect him. But like all little boys, Astro has to learn to walk, talk, fly, blast and well grow up. Eventually Tenma realizes that Astro could never replace his son and alienates Astro so Tenma’s best friend Dr. Elefun to raise Astro.
Eventually Astro learns to become more human and becomes a protector of the city.
The story was emotional one with complicated characters and it meant a lot to see so much in a series for kids.
The 2009 CGI-animated movie takes a lot of liberties but the soul of Astro is there. I found Tenma (voiced by Nicolas Cage) to be a lot colder and kind of devious. I remembered the robot circus and how much the story of Astro is a lot like Pinnochio but I was confused with the flying city and the trash heap of a world below.
IMAGI the company who adapted Astro for the big screen also took some liberties when they adapted The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in TMNT. The turtles splitting up, the zany new villain and the death of Shredder. And they took alot of liberties with Astro.
I liked seeing Astro in a whole new light but something was missing in the story. I laughed when they asked him what was up with his hair and he says its just gel!
But the rest just felt so foreign and didn’t have the edge mixed with innocence that I remembered. Also all the new support characters I felt seemed forced in some respect and I remembered that side of Astro coming from a different place.
I hope that new kids seeing this movie will find that heartfelt story of a father’s love that I saw all those years ago. I might have been young but that story still resonates with me today.
3 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer