I like animation in just about any form, whether it's the stop motion brilliance of Coraline or the computer graphics gleam of Toy Story or Shrek. I'm not a huge fan of manga, however, Japanese comics,though I am a definite fan of graphic novels and probably buy a dozen or so every month (which my kids definitely appreciate). Astro Boy was a mixed bag, therefore, because it's animated (good) but based on a very Japanese manga comic and story (not so good).
What I hadn't realized until watching this animated feature was that the story of Astro Boy is really just a robotic retelling of the story of Jesus, with lots and lots of visual and story ideas inspired by pop culture, including Robocop, Toy Story, Frankenstein, I Robot, Minority Report, a definite inspiration from Wall-E, and Pinocchio, just to name a few.
The story is set in a mythic future where the inhabitants of Earth have created a floating city built around Mt. Fujiyama called Metro City. Robots are pervasive and exist as distinct second-class citizens, destroyed on a whim and discarded over the side of Metro City in massive junk piles on the surface. In an amusing introductory video narrated by Charlize Theron, we are shown how the broken robots are discarded with the elegy "may you rust in peace."
Brilliant boy scientist Toby (Freddie Highmore) is the son of Dr. Tenma (Nicholas Cage), and there's no mother in the story at all, not even a mention of a missing, departed or deceased parent. Dr. Tenma is perpetually too busy to pay attention to Toby, who is left instead to play with his robot pal Orrin (Eugene Levy). Orrin is one of the best characters in the film, actually, with an emotional range far beyond most every other character in Astro Boy.
Through an accident, Toby is killed but his father resurrects him by tapping into pure positive "blue core energy" in a scene clearly reminiscent of the classic Frankenstein film.
There's a lot more that transpires in this exciting film, but ultimately it was so derivative that it left me flat, unengaged in Astro Boy or any of the other character in the story. It was also too loud and too scary for small children. The target audience is probably only tween boys or perhaps younger teenage boys, along with manga fanatics.