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Astro Boy is a 2009 American-Hong Kong CGI movie based on the anime series created by Osamu Tezuka. It was released in theaters on October 23, 2009. In 2006 or 2005 they announced that they would make this movie. The story in the movie is much different from the story in the television series in many ways, The film features the voices of Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucas, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Charlize Theron and Nicolas Cage. The film was released first in Hong Kong on October 8, 2009, Japan on October 10, 2009 and in the United States on October 23, 2009.

Plot

Tobio "Toby" Tenma is a teenager who lives in the futuristic city-state Metro City, which floats above the polluted "Surface" on Earth. Toby's dad, Dr. Tenma, is a famous roboticist, head of the Ministry of Science, and the reason for Metro City's state of living, but has a distant relationship with his son. One day, after school, Dr. Tenma reluctantly lets Toby tag along as Tenma meets with the city's obstructive leader President Stone to demonstrate a new defensive robot called the Peacekeeper designed to revolutionize Metro City's military. To power it, Tenma's friend Dr. Elefun unveils the Blue and Red Core, two energy spheres which have opposing positive and negative energy. During the demonstration, against Tenma and Elefun's wishes, Stone has the Red Core placed into the Peacekeeper instead of the blue hoping to make more efficient of a fighter. The demonstration goes well until the Peacekeeper sets its sights on the people. The negative energy of the red core not only makes it an unstoppable fighter, but a remorseless killing machine as well. As the deadly robot charges at its masters with murderous intent, Tenma manages to contain it within the laboratory behind an emergency shield. However, what Tenma didn't know was that Toby hud snuck into the lab to watch the demonstration. And, to add insult to injury, the impact from the Peacekeeper running into the shield sealed it shut, leaving Toby trapped with the Peacekeeper. Tenma tries to ensure that everything will be fine, but the Peacekeeper then unleashes a full-power energy blast directly from the core itself in an unsuccessful attempt to blow the shield down. Instead, it creates a hole big enough to walk through by absorbing the glass and Elefun manages to subdue the monster by cross-circuiting the red core with the blue's. Tenma manages to open the shield notices that Toby is nowhere to be found. All he finds is his hat and is crestfallen to realize Tobio was disintegrated from getting caught in the line of fire from that energy blast. After the destruction of Peacekeeper, Tenma kneels in despair, grabs Tobio's hat and cries.

A distraught Tenma secretly constructs a robot replica of Tobio, complete with his memories, but has in-built defenses to protect him and is powered by the Blue Core. Tobio's replica is awakened, believing nothing has happened. While he has Tobio's mind, his personality is different in Tenma's eyes, when in actuality it is quite similar. Tobio discovers his robot capabilities including rocket-powered flight and the ability to understand other robots. Tobio flies home but learns from Tenma of his origins and is rejected by him. Appealed and heartbroken by the rejection of his father, Tobio flying away much to the sadness of Dr. Elefun (including Orrin, who puts his hands to his chest in sadness). Stone, desperate to win a re-election, has Tobio pursued by his guards but the battle leads to Tobio tumbling off the city edge onto the Surface. Elefun is arrested by Stone, until Tenma appears and realizes what Stone wants, obeys him. Elefun is free. Elefun gives them a menacing look, hoping that they'll never find the boy.

Tobio awakens in an enormous junkyard, created from the redundant robots dumped by Metro City. He is found by a group of human children, illiterate but smart Zane, twins Sludge and Widget, and the oldest Cora who has a grudge against Metro City. They accompanied by a dog-like waste dispodal robot named Trashcan. Tobio also meets the members of the Robot Revolutionary Front (RRF), Sparx, Robotsky, and Mike the Fridge, who wish to free robots from mankind's control but are very inept and bound by the Laws of Robotics. However, they give Tobio a new name, calls him "Astro". Astro departs with the kids, finding people still live on the Surface. He is taken in by robot repairman Hamegg, who also runs a robot fighting ring. The next day, Astro comes across an offline construction robot Zog, who he revives with the Blue Core's energy. Hamegg accidentally scans Astro, realising he is a robot, and paralyzes him the next day to participate in the fighting ring.

Astro defeats Hamegg's fighters until Zog is deployed, but the two robots refuse to fight one another. Hamegg assaults them with an electrical blaster, only for Zog to attempt to harm him, immune from the Laws of Robotics. In rage and revenge, Zog crushes him to death, to the shock of the crowd, Astro saves Hamegg. President Stone's flagship arrives and Astro is taken back to Metro City. Reuniting with Tenma and Elefun, Astro agrees to be shut down, apologizing to his father for not being Tobio. Realising Astro is still his son, Dr. Tenma having a change of heart, reactivates him and lets him escape. Infuriated by this decision, Stone has the scientists arrested, he loads the Red Core into the Peacekeeper, only for it to absorb him and take on his personality. Panicked, scientists (including Tenma and Elefun) escape the ministry. The Peacekeeper goes on run amok across Metro City, prompting Astro to battle it. During the fight, Metro City's power systems shut down, causes it to tumble to the ground. Astro uses his superhuman strength to help it land safely.

The Peacekeeper grabs Astro, but the connection of their cores causes them both pain. Dr. Tenma finds Astro and informs him that if the two cores reunite, they will be destroyed. When Astro's friends are captured, he flies into the Red Core, destroying himself and the Peacekeeper. Distraught that he lost his son again, Tenma kneels and sobs. Stone survives but is arrested for his crimes. Dr. Elefun and the children find Astro's Body, discovering the Blue Core died. As the people mourn his death, Zog appears and revives Astro using the Blue-Core Energy given to him (as a graduation for reviving him too). Astro reunites with his loved ones, making peace with his father. The people love Astro, even his allies and friends. Tenma gives Orrin vacation, much to his joy. Then, a cycloptic extraterrestrial attacks the city, and Astro leaps into action and punches the cycloptic extraterrestial as the film ends.

Cast

  • Freddie Highmore as Astro Boy and Tobio Tenma, Astro is a android repilca of Tobio, Dr. Tenma's son.
  • Nicolas Cage as Dr. Tenma, Tobio's dad, Astro's creator, and the head of the Ministry of Science of Metro City.
  • Kristen Bell as Cora, a teenager girl who lives on the surface and befriends Astro.
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Zog, a 100-year-old construction robot brought back to life by Astro's blue-core energy.
  • Matt Lucas as Sparx, the leader of the Robot Revolutionary Front.
  • Eugene Levy as Orrin, Tenma's cowardly robot household servant.
  • Bill Nighy as Dr. Elefun, Dr. Tenma's best friend & sidekick; and as Robotsky, the muscle of the Robot Revolutionary Front.
  • Donald Sutherland as President Stone, the leader, ruthless, ambitious, and corrupt President of Metro City who is running for re-election.
  • Nathan Lane as Hamegg, a surface-dweller who repairs machines and then uses them in his fighting tournament.
  • Charlize Theron as the "Our Friends" narrator, the voice used for educational video seen at the film's beginning.
  • David Bowers as Mike the Fridge, a talking refrigerator and third member of the Robot Revolutionary Front.
  • Moisés Arias as Zane, a surface-dwelling child.
  • Alan Tudyk as Mr. Squeegee, a cleaning robot that Astro encounters.
  • David Alan Grier as Mr. Squirt, a cleaning robot that Astro encounters.
  • Madeline Carroll as Widget, Sludge's twin.
  • Sterling Beaumon as Sludge, Widget's twin.
  • Dee Bradley Baker as Trashcan, a dog-like robot that eats the rubbish.
  • Elle Fanning as Grace, a girl from Hamegg's house who kicks President Stone's leg.
  • Ryan Stiles as Mr. Mustachio, Toby's teacher.
  • Newell Alexander as General Heckler, President Stone's second-in-command.
  • Victor Bonavida as Sam, a teenage boy from Hamegg's house.
  • Tony Matthews as Cora's dad.
  • Bob Logan as Stinger One, President Stone's pilot henchman who leads a group of aircraft with suction tubes and is dispatched to capture Astro.
  • Ryan Ochoa as Rick, another teenage boy from Hamegg's house.

Production

Development

In 1997, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased the film rights to Astro Boy from Tezuka Productions, intending to produce a live-action feature film. Todd Alcott was set to write the screenplay, but the film halted in 2000 when Steven Spielberg began A.I. (2001), another film with a robot boy who replaces a dead child. In December 2001, Sony hired Eric Leighton to direct an all-CGI film, with Angry Films and Jim Henson Productions producing it for a 2004 release. A screenplay draft was written, but the film did not go into production, and Leighton left in early 2003 to pursue other film projects. In June 2004, animator and Dexter's Laboratory creator Genndy Tartakovsky was hired to direct a live-action/animatronics/CGI feature film. After writing the script, the film didn't go into the production, and Tartakovsky left next year to direct 3-D-animated feature films at a new studio, Orphanage Animation Studios. Few months later it was revealed, that he was set to direct The Dark Crystal (1982) sequel, The Power of the Dark Crystal, another co-production with Jim Henson Productions. In September 2006, it was announced that Hong Kong-based animation firm Imagi Animation Studios would produce a CGI animated Astro Boy film, with Colin Brady directing it. A year later, the studio made a three-picture distribution deal with Warner Bros. and The Weinstein Company, which also included TMNT (2007) and Gatchaman. In 2008, Summit Entertainment took over the film's distribution rights. The same year, Brady was replaced with David Bowers, who previously directed Flushed Away (2006), the last project under the relationship between DreamWorks Animation and Aardman, the creator of Wallace and Gromit.

Design

When adapting the film for a western audience and making the leap from 2-D to 3-D, some changes to Astro had to be made. The more challenging was his kawaii portrayal, part of which were his large eyes and curly eyelashes, features that the filmmakers thought made him too feminine. Imagi had several discussions on how round and curvy Astro's body proportions should be and in the end they were made slimmer. The by-product of these changes was Astro's Caucasian look. In early development Astro's design was younger, resembling his iconic design of a 6-year-old boy. The design team changed that and made him look like a 13-year-old to appeal to a larger audience. They also gave him a white shirt, and a blue jacket since they thought it would be strange to have a normal boy running around without one. They also replaced his heart-shaped energy core with a glowing blue one.

Music

The score to Astro Boy was composed by John Ottman, who recorded his score with a 95-piece orchestra and choir at Abbey Road Studios. A soundtrack album was released on October 20, 2009, by Varèse Sarabande Records. Songs in Astro Boy not composed by John Ottman are as follows: Breezy Day, composed by Roger-Roger. All Right, written by Daniel Goffey, Gaz Coombes, and Michael Quinn and performed by Supergrass. Marching Down the Field, composed by Harry Edwards.

Release

Marketing

Summit Entertainment partnered with McDonald's to produce marketing tie-ins for Astro Boy. Beginning in May 2009 and continuing through September 2009, IDW Publishing published a "prequel" and comic book adaptation of the film as both mini-series and in graphic novel format to coincide with the North American release of the film in October 2009. A model of a motionless Astro Boy waiting to be powered up was set up at Peak Tower, Hong Kong, outside Madame Tussauds Hong Kong in September 2009. A panel of the film was held at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 23, 2009.

Home media

Astro Boy was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on March 16, 2010 by Summit Entertainment. Both releases include two new animated sequences, a featurette with the voice cast, three other featurettes about drawing Astro Boy, making an animated movie and getting the Astro Boy look, and an image gallery.

In Japan, a limited edition Astro Boy premium box set was released on April 2, 2010. It featured the same content from the American release with the exception of it spanning two DVD discs (one containing the film, the other containing special features with two that are exclusive to Japan) and has both English and Japanese dub (along with English and Japanese subtitles.) The box set also comes with a DVD (containing a single story on Astro's first flight and an image gallery), Dr. Tenma's Project Notes (featuring 80 pages of 3-D-CGI models, character art and set designs from the film), a Micro SD (featuring the motion manga Atomu Tanjo (Birth of Astro Boy) originally written by Osamu Tezuka), a postcard of 1980 Astro Boy flying, a small bookmark (a reel from the film inside a plastic cover), and Astro's blueprints from the film.

Reception

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 50% based on 139 reviews, with an average score of 5.60/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "While it isn't terribly original, and it seems to have a political agenda that may rankle some viewers, Astro Boy boasts enough visual thrills to please its target demographic." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 53 out of 100 based on 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B and wrote that it had a "little too much lost-boys-and-girls mopiness", but "Astro Boy is a marvelously designed piece of cartoon kinetics..." Glenn Whipp of the Los Angeles Times gave the mixed review claiming "The kids won't get it but will enjoy the big, climactic robot rumpuses, which owe a heavy debt to Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (1999)". Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave it a mixed review, criticizing the film's confused tonal mixture of darkness and "commercially motivated" optimism. Conversely, Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars, stating that "The movie contains less of its interesting story and more action and battle scenes than I would have preferred. [...] Still, 'Astro Boy' is better than most of its recent competitors, such as 'Monsters vs. Aliens' and 'Kung Fu Panda.'"

Box office

The film was a flop in Japan, appearing at the bottom of the opening week's Top 10 rankings and earning only $328,457. Conversely, the film was very successful in China, breaking a box-office record for a CGI animated film. This follows the same pattern as Dragonball Evolution (2009) and Speed Racer (2008), other American-produced films based on Japanese sources that were not big hits in the land of their origin but were very successful in China. The film also was a box office bomb in the U.S., opening at #6, grossing $6.7 million, losing out to the similarly retro Where the Wild Things Are (2009). It remained in the Top 10 for three weeks. When it closed in January 2010, it had a total gross of $20 million. Due to these factors, the film would only produce a worldwide gross of $44.6 million against a $65 million budget.

Video Game

A video game based on the film was released on October 20, 2009, by D3 Publisher to coincide with the film's theatrical release. The Wii, PlayStation 2 and PSP versions were developed by High Voltage Software, and the Nintendo DS version by Art Co., Ltd.

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