Astro Boy comes rocketing onto Blu-Ray and DVD but the jet stream stalls and fades out in its attempt to claim any artistic or commercial glory – leaving it to plummet into the cloudy depths of mediocrity.
Based on the Japanese manga, this American retelling of the tale is set in the future where a lot of us seem to be living on a strange elevated piece of land that floats in the sky. It’s literally a high society – with a skyscraper vision of the future leading the way.
Astro Boy tells the tale of a brilliant young lad who is blown up in an experiment gone wrong at a military lab co run by the boy’s own father – an even more brilliant scientist. With only his sons cap surviving the blast (curious that this managed to survive intact?) and a hair for DNA – he recreates the boys memories and places them into a replica robot who has one or two added features (you know, like the ability to fly, shoot weapons and knock the crap out of robots a lot bigger than he is).
Of course at some point it all starts to seem a bit wrong and the boy is out in the junkyard Earth below to fend for himself. It’s here that he meets a group of outcasts who take him in, unbeknownst of his true identity.
The look of the film is perhaps a little bit too clean looking – an animated style that will stand out for the kids but may make some adults sulk that what they have is purely meant for their children to enjoy and in that case you get pretty much the whole kit; an adventurous young hero with an inner problem to overcome, a rag tag group of friends, a villainous military leader and plenty of wacky confused companions to make jokes and run into hard objects at high speed all for your lively amusement.
The problem is, the jokes are never hilarious, the action sporadic at best, the drama fairly trite; although it is brave enough to have a scene where our hero is literally obliterated by an explosion. But even then what we still get is a robot and humans story and many themes and parallels to the much superior Wall-E. Like a lot of the humour in this film it may have been a case of bad timing for this release.
Having said that there is still an impressive cast attached to the film including Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Bill Nighy, Matt Lucas, Nathan Lane and Freddie Highmore as Astro.
The extras are fairly flimsy; a few minor and very short pieces on the design of the film and a couple of very short added on cartoons that take place after the fact – neither of which are much to write home about. The look of the film is good on Blu-Ray – which kids will enjoy – but the vision of the future seems like an idea that was good at the time, but forgotten about in the film after the first half hour. A bright and glimmering vision of the future that is perhaps a bit too shiny.