Friday, October 26, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Astro Boy

While its been statistically proven that there is little love for Osamu Tezuka out here in the States, the God Of Manga is still big with old school otaku. Hell, if it weren't for him, we wouldn't even have anime out here in the way that we do. For a little quick history, Tezuka created this as a manga in the early 50s titled Tetsuwan Atom("Mighty Atom"), and made into an anime series in early 60s, which was the first anime to be shown on American TV. It was later remade in the 1980, and then again in 2003, both of which have also been played out here on TV, although only with minimal success. The original was so popular because of how groundbreaking it was, and was the first real taste us gaijin got of anime. One of the most appealing things about it was Tezuka's take on the old Walt Disney style of character designs, as it pretty evident with Astro's two hair-horns homaging Mickey Mouse's ears. So anyway, trying to latch on to a bit of nostalgia like a ton of other movies have been doing lately(Alvin & The Chipmunks, G.I. Joe,  A-Team, Clash Of The Titans), the crew from the ill-fated Imagi Studios(TMNT)decided to give a shot at doing a feature film based on the American version.

Set in the very distant future, most of the Earth is covered with garbage(think Wall-E), but a century ago some scientists raised a city up from the rubish to live out their lives in a waste-free enviroment, and called it Metro City. They created robots with slightly advanced A.I.'s to do all their work, and toss all their garbage on to the ground below. One of the main minds behind this is Dr. Tenma, but his eagerness to impress the corrupt President with a new military robot causes his son Toby to be killed. Distraught, Tenma makes a robot duplicate of him, but fits him with incredible strength, rocket feet, and a huge arsenal all powered by special energy source from space called Blue Core. The robot Toby figures out he's not really human much to his suprise after listening to some maintenance-bots chatting, and then going on a scenic flight through the city. After being dejected by his creator/father who realizes he's not a perfect replacement for his original son, Toby leaves, but is hunted down by the President's forces to use the Blue Core in their Peacemaker droid. Toby gets shot down to the surface, where he befriends some children scrounging in the junk for robot parts. Although he was quickly accosted by the "Robot Revolutionary Front" and given the new name Astro, he goes off with Cora and the other kids to the tinkerer Hamegg who rebuilds robots and takes care of orphens. Astro tries to hide the fact that he's really a robot from the others, although Hamegg figures it out, and exposes him when they go to the Robot Games which is like a mecha gladiator fight. Hamegg corners Astro into battling a bunch of Mega Man-baddies, and almost has to fight Zog, a large construction bot that Astro brought back online, but refuses to fight Astro. The President locates Astro, and forces him back to Metro City. He has Tenma take the Blue Core out of Astro, but Tenma has a change of heart, and Astro flies away. In spite of this, the President uses the unstable Red Core(the "evil" version of the Blue Core)to activate the Peacemaker, which absorbs him into it, and now the President is in its body. The Peacemaker starts absorbing half the city, and fights Astro in a stupendous battle. This causes Metro City to fall to the ground, which Astro manages soften the landing of. He then runs head on into the Peacemaker, and his energy cancels it out. Althought depleted of power, Zog shows up to lend him some of his excess Blue Core energy to reactive him. Astro is then viewed as a hero by the people, although he gets to pull one real routine right out of the old show at the finale.

Imagi pulled off a very impressive production in this, managing to pull together some of the great action of The Incredibles with the family comedy of Robots. It's unfortunate that it wasn't met with more success at the box office, even to the point of Imagi having to close down their American studios. They were planning on doing film versions of Gigantor and Battle Of The Planets, but no yet word if their Asian branch will complete them. Perhaps it might have done better financially if it had been done exclusively for Japanese audiences first as an adaptation of the original anime instead of the American edition, so they could've gotten most of their production money back. The movie itself is well animated, maybe not totally on the level with most American studios like Dreamworks or Pixar, but definately above your average made-for-video/TV animation. It also features an all-star English cast like Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Charlize Theron, and Samuel L. Jackson. However, the ones who really stood out where Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy, and Donald Sutherland. The DVD/Blu-Ray features two impressive original animated shorts too. Very much worth at least a solid rental for superhero fanatics, and unlike a certain other comic book movie, this one actually had a giant alien squid in it!

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