Movie Review: ‘Astro Boy’

Classic Japanese Comic Comes to Big Screen

By Derek Padula Created: October 23, 2009 Last Updated: November 30, -0001
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ASTRO: The title character, Astro Boy, voiced by Freddie Highmore in the new animated film. (Tezuka Productions Co./Summit Entertainment)

ASTRO: The title character, Astro Boy, voiced by Freddie Highmore in the new animated film. (Tezuka Productions Co./Summit Entertainment)

The new feature Astro Boy is a fun, innocent, and endearing adventure that’s perfect for kids and enjoyable for adults. The film’s hallmarks are breathtaking CGI [Computer Generated Imagery] animation, attention to detail, incredible music, and timeless story.

Astro Boy recounts the tale of Toby, the genius young son of a brilliant scientist, who is transformed into a supernormal mechanical robot. Gifted with the positive and kind energy of the Blue Core, Toby takes on the name Astro Boy in a climactic battle against the negative Red Core energy, placed inside another robot named the Peacekeeper.

A story of redemption, salvation, and finding oneself in the world, Astro Boy is engaging, comical, and, yet, simultaneously dramatic. The jokes and story development never come off as hokey or cliché, and the movie progresses at a smooth pace.

The film is directed by David Bowers (Flushed Away) and stars Freddie Highmore (The Spiderwick Chronicles, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as the title character. As with many big budget animated features, there’s also a marquee supporting cast including A-listers: Nicolas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlize Theron, Nathan Lane, Kristen Bell, Donald Sutherland, and Eugene Levy.

Astro Boy in action. (Tezuka Productions Co./Summit Entertainment)

Astro Boy in action. (Tezuka Productions Co./Summit Entertainment)

Despite being a robot, the conflicts that Astro Boy faces are surprisingly relatable, such as being unsure of oneself amongst strangers, what to do when faced with conflict, and how to overcome the hardships of life while remaining true to one’s beliefs. This is what makes the character so endearing.

The film is based on a Japanese comic and animated series created in 1952 by Osamu Tezuka, the highly respected “God of Comics” and veritable Walt Disney of Japan. His Astro Boy comic set the standard for large eyed emotionally expressive and young male leads and has been a success across the world.

Later, Astro Boy ushered in a wave of action packed Japanese comics for generations to come, such as the mega-hit Dragon Ball.

Astro Boy successfully captures the spirit and mentality of the genre with a young, naïve, yet, optimistic hero, engaging plot lines, solid character development, and titanic battles between opposing forces.

While it’s not an overnight classic, the film will stand the test of time.

Derek Padula is an expert on Japanese cartoons. He is writing a book titled The Dao of Dragon Ball. More information about Japanese pop culture and cartoons can be found at

4.5 stars


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