Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: David Bowers
Release Date: 23 October 2009
Length: 94 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 3/5 stars
“Astro Boy (voiced by Freddie Highmore), a young robot created by Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage), embarks on a dangerous odyssey, navigating unknown territory in search of purpose before returning home to save his loved ones. Metro City is desperately in need of a hero who has extraordinary superpowers like x-ray vision, remarkable speed and the ability to fly in this sci-fi anime based on Osamu Tezuka‘s manga.” — Netflix.com
I mainly rented this movie for my nephews as I thought it would be a cute CGI, sci fi movie that would appeal to a big age range (4 – 12). And I was correct! They did enjoy it. I wish I could say the same. While I was watching this movie, I had this niggling little notion in the back of my mind that I had seen this story somewhere before… Boy created by father to replace dead son, check. Father repulsed by robot who thinks he is really his son and kicks him out, check. Robot boy ends up on the surface of Earth with all of the rest of the trash and meets renegade robots trying to keep robots alive and out of human hands, check. Programming to prevent robots from harming humans, check. Robots refurbished and used to fight to the death for human entertainment, check. It wasn’t until this last one happened that I realized I was watching an animated version of A.I.. And I was pissed. I didn’t like the live action version and now I was tricked into watching another version! I am such a sucker, I just can’t turn a movie off!
That stupid A.I. movie turned me off of science fiction films for a while. What part of programmed to love you forever did you not understand? Hello, if you cannot take the responsibility, don’t make the choice. I guess it just goes to show that you should make people wait several years until the initial bereavement is past and then let them make a robotic counterpart. I don’t know, I just don’t like it. Clearly humans are scum of the Earth and will treat any underling poorly – no matter whether they are manufactured or born just like the rest of us! I always find these movies really depressing as I don’t like to think that our future is going to end up so depressing and repressive. There is always a huge chasm between the haves and have nots and the robots are sentient, but not treated as such.
So, yeah, I was furious that I was watching this pint-sized version of a movie that really bugged me, but my nephews had a great time. The animation is bright, colorful and well done. There is plenty of action and lots of cool fighting sequences. The soundtrack is quite nice, too. The voice overs were well done, though some of the voices (Nicolas Cage & Donald Sutherland) were so distinctive that I kept picturing their faces in my mind instead of paying attention to their CGI characters.
I am happy to say that the movie redeemed itself a bit by having a “happy” ending. After the robot fighting, the plot changed a bit and made the movie bearable. I was hoping for a manufactured super hero movie and I kind of got that, but not really. There are some pretty deep themes in this movie and children may or may not pick up on them. For example, what makes a human human? How much value does a human creation have? If you have the knowledge and ability to create something, should you? So yeah, most little kids won’t even notice that these issues are being discussed and they won’t understand the difference between Astro Boy and the other robots so they will just enjoy it for what it is. If you have little boys at home, they will probably love this movie. If you watched A.I. and didn’t particularly care for it, let your kids watch it without you.
This movie features lots of fighting, action-style violence, robots being crushed and destroyed, humans being eaten up by robots (they just kind of get sucked in), some adult issues and topics (see paragraph above about creation and what makes a human human), but there is no blood or gore. The little boy that Astro Boy is patterned after dies at the beginning so this may be disturbing for younger children. Be prepared to be on hand to answer questions or to offer comfort and explanations. Recommended for ages 5 and up, but probably best for ages 8 and up.