A mostly-rollicking family adventure, you won't find anything but a mildly-diverting good time with "Astro Boy."
In the futuristic cloud-bound Metro City, Toby (Freddie Highmore) is the boy-genius son of the brilliant-but-distant scientist Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage).
When Toby is killed in an accident involving the president's (Donald Sutherland) testing of a new indestructible robotic "Peacekeeper," a devastated Dr. Tenma rebuilds his son as an indestructible robot, complete with rocket-jet feet and body parts that turn into cannons.
But Tenma can't bear to look at this artificial version of his son and rejects him, leading Toby to flee, embarking on an abbreviated "Wizard of Oz"-style quest.
The story liberally borrows from several well-worn superheroes, fairy tales, and other children's stories, and teases some hefty themes like parental acceptance, what does and does not consititute life, the over-reliance on technology, and government tyranny, but gives it the Saturday-morning cartoon treatment in favor of slam-bang theatrics.
The action sequences are solid, and there's a nice vibe when Astro Boy flies that was missing from, say, "Superman Returns." The villain (the president) and his heavy (the Peacekeeper) are competently conceived if not perfectly executed.
Based on the classic Japanese Manga comics, "Astro Boy" has been updated and Americanized for your protection. There's nothing inherently wrong with that per se, since the character itself and the look of the film seems to be fairly consistent with what (little) I've seen of the original.
It's surprising with such good production values and an A-list cast (Cage, Sutherland, Highmore, Kristin Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, and Charlize Theron are among the cast) that this film didn't get more love from the studio.
There is a feeling that the film was rushed through production, and certain beats that could have been handled with a little patience and subtlety are hammered through to keep the film moving, sometimes to its detriment.
I would also have liked to have seen a little more time taken on some of the more emotional aspects of the story (Tenma's building, then rejecting, his new son takes about 2 minutes of screen time, which could, and should, be a little confusing to younger audiences).
Much like a previous IMAGI effort, the animated reboot "TMNT," you won't find anything groundbreaking or even particularly spectacular, but you will have a good time with established characters, see a few spirited action sequences, and almost instantly forget about the adventure you just saw using timeless characters.
If IMAGI can catch up its screenwriting and editing divisions to its animation division, we might be in for a real treat.
Until then, we can pass the time with "Astro Boy."