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'Astro Boy' - a lovable fantasy with important lessons (IANS Movie Review)
Film: 'Astro Boy'; Director: David Bowers; Voiceover: Nicolas Cage, Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, Chalize Theron, Donald Sutherland; Rating: ***
What is it being human? Is it just our flesh and bones or has it to do with that 'core' inside us which is humane and kind and generous. 'Astro Boy', a delectable animation film, asks the question and answers it to the satisfaction of both kids and adults.
Metro city is an epitome of human technological advancement, where robots do almost everything and have feelings just like humans. However, humans merely look at robots created by Tenma, as machines.
Once while experimenting with a powerful alien source of energy, segregated into the pure positive energy 'blue core' and it's negative opposite energy 'red core' Tenma's teenage son, Toby dies.
Tenma then makes a highly sophisticated robot and programs it with the memory of his own dead son and implant in him the positive blue core energy. Tenma had hoped for this robot to replace his son. Instead, when it reminds him more of the tragedy, he abandons the kid.
However, thanks to the positive blue core energy inside it, Toby exhibits super-robot powers. He can fly, dig through rock and is extremely strong. Yet, his true specialty is an equally soft 'core' that beats for the pain and anguish of humanity.
Orphaned, and attacked by Metro city's president, he lands on the earth. Here he befriends a group of orphans but finds them to be equally discriminatory of robots. So, he does not tell them his real identity and instead calls himself Astro. Everybody is amazed to see the miraculous work he conjures up. Meanwhile the president uses the unstable negative red core energy to fight with the surface and capture Astro boy for political gains.
'Astro Boy' is a children's fantasy film that points a finger at adult's discriminatory mindset. It takes a robotic child to show them the fallacy of their thinking. Since the film is American, the analogy can be seen of America's discrimination against Afro-Americans, who like the robots in Metro city do not look like the ruling class, but without these 'mockingbirds' the structure of the nation would collapse.
The animation and production value in 'Astro Boy' is one of the best in Hollywood. And unlike other animation films, this is not just a comedy for children, but has dark undertone handled simply and sensitively that both instructs and entertains.
'Astro Boy' originally came to life as in the comic book called 'Tetsuwan Atomu' or 'Mighty Atom' from the pen and compassion of the legendary Japanese artist Osamu Tezuka in 1952.
Ravaged by a war and two atomic bombs, the comic books, not only captured Japanese imagination, and led to the birth of an animation style that is now known as 'Anime' but also contributed greatly in changing the attitude of the nation towards science and technology. In many ways the animation series helped rebuild Japan, making them into the technological powerhouse that they are now.
'Astro Boy' keeps the basic plot of the comic series by Tezuka, but takes liberties in many others.
This version does well, to bring a very old, but affable and kindly character from comic book, up to date with our modern world.
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