I’m oldschool.

Monday, April 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm Comments (1)

More Resident Evil goodness is happening by Random Action Hour.


How about some more really brief movie reviews of kids films? I caught the CGI film of Astro Boy a couple of days ago. It had decent animation and some surprise voice actors (Nicholas Cage as Dr. Tenma! Donald Sutherland as the evil president! Samuel L. Jackson voices a giant robot for all of three lines!), but it really had nothing to offer no other CGI kids flick couldn’t. They got the license to a franchise with nearly fifty years worth of history behind it, and then they just didn’t seem to have any grand ambitions with it.

Mind you, my only real familiarity with Astro Boy is through Omega Factor on the Game Boy Advance, so when I think Astro Boy, I think a convoluted plot involving time travel, a bazillion characters, and a heavy emphasis on the rights of robots and the struggle for equality between all sentient life. The film doesn’t really feature any of that. In fact, I’m struggling to even remember the plot. Some bollocks about a red and blue core and an angry military guy wanting to run for president, or something? The entire middle act is basically a detour to an entirely different setting with entirely different characters, and although it does become vitally important at the end, I couldn’t help but feel it was just the lazy way of having to avoid using Astro Boy-specific material.

That was my main beef, actually. Oh, yeah, play one licensed video game and I act like I’m a knowledgeable mastermind about the franchise! My problem was that there wasn’t really anything here that needed Astro Boy. His relationship with Tenma and his kind-hearted nature are explored, but the whole battle-for-robot-rights plot, which I consider a vital part of what makes Astro Boy so intriguing… just isn’t there. Oh, sure, there’s a comic relief trio of robot revolutionaries, but the entire movie is corny; about the only serious part is Tenma’s angst over Toby’s death, but even that is partly undermined because ever since Kickass I think Nicholas Cage’s voice is inherently hilarious. Every robot suffers a lot of comic violence, which is par for the course in a fluff kids film, but given how Omega Factor makes a big deal out of non-lethally defeating both the anti-robot and anti-human activists, it just sat ill at ease with me.

Osamu Tezuka’s got such a recognisable art style that it’d be hard to see it being adapted into a 3D motion picture. It is cute to see the more visually distinctive characters like Tenma, O’Shay and Shunsaku Ban/Mr. Moustachio recreated in 3D, but everything just lacks the flair of the original drawings; it was neat to see Shunsaku make appearances in brief shots of the city that I was hoping he would become vital to the story, but by the time you get a clear shot of him at the end, he just looks rather ugly. All of the humans, despite the cartoony flair, just have an aura of genericness about them, as if they could’ve been used in any ol’ movie, Tezuka-related or not.

The robots are hit the worst by this, as Astro is the only robot lifted from the manga. The only one. That’s it. All the other robots, rather than aiming to at least fit in with Osamu’s very anime-styled mech designs, just feel like they’re lifted from Dreamworks’ Robots. That’s not exactly a good thing. It’s like trying to put Robby the Robot and a Gundam side by side and expecting people to think they belong in the same fictional universe. The robot version of the bad guy in the final battle is admittedly impressive, but it’s such a Transformers (movie-verse!) rip-off that it doesn’t really count.

So, yeah, the visual direction isn’t great. It’s not dreadful, but it’s just uninspiring. And when the rest of the movie is so forgettable, that can’t be good. It’s a movie I’d recommend watching only if you’ve got nothing better to do.

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