Astro Boy Preview
The boy robot zooms into the 21st century with a new film.
The boy robot known as Astro Boy is readying for his return to the spotlight this coming October when Imagi Studios and Summit Entertainment will release the 3-D animated film of the same name. A revival of the classic Japanese anime character, Astro Boy was directed by David Bowers (Flushed Away) and stars the voice talents of Kristen Bell, Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, and Bill Nighy. IGN and some other media outlets recently got the chance at a sneak peek of some footage from the film, presented by Bowers himself.
“It’s a classic superhero origin story, really,” says the helmer of Astro Boy. “You find out what Astro Boy is and where he comes from in the story. And it’s hard. It’s a very emotional story. … It’s the first big-screen incarnation of the character.”
Created by the legendary Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy began life as a manga in 1952. The first anime series followed in 1963, and a variety of permutations have followed over the years, though modern mainstream audiences in the United States remain largely unaware of the character. That is something that Bowers thinks could change very soon. Certainly the character’s origins make for an appealing story.
Created by a scientist (Cage) who wants to replace his deceased son, Astro Boy (Highmore) proves to be more than the bereaved egghead bargained for.
“The movie explores all the problems that come with attempting something like that,” says Bowers.
The first clip screened for the press plays directly to those themes, as Cage’s Dr. Tenma works nonstop on his Pinocchio-like robot. Combining his dead son’s DNA with pieces of missiles, the scientist is half-mad in his attempts to revive the boy — or a semblance of him anyway.
We see the robot’s interior parts even as lasers create a semblance of Tenma’s son around the construct. Nighy’s Dr. Elefun appears in order to provide Tenma with the power supply for the robot, a blue energy source. As the energy is fed into the robot, a bluish lightshow erupts — the robot boy then crashes to the ground. For a moment, silence, and then the machine begins to move its hand. It stands, eyes glowing, and it speaks!
And Dr. Tenma carries his son home.
“After [he] takes Astro home they go through a sort of normal day, but it doesn’t work out quite the way he expected,” Bowers told us. “Astro’s a bit different from [the dead son] Toby. The doctor’s disappointed. He ends up eventually breaking the truth to Toby that he’s not his son; he’s a robot who looks like his son and he doesn’t want him anymore. Toby is heartbroken and flies out of the apartment.”
After Astro Boy leaves his father/creator, he attempts to come to terms with the truth he has learned. He also takes to mastering his powers, including his ability to fly, but this has resulted in his showing up on the government’s sensors. And the president wants the power source behind the robot for his own nefarious purposes. This leads to the next clip we watched, where Astro Boy is surrounded by a bunch of Yellow Jackets — a type of attack aircraft.
President Stone (Sutherland) wants the robot at any cost. The Yellow Jackets pursue him, shooting green wire-like cables at Astro. But he races away through the air, navigating around the city. Eventually the planes get stuck in part of a building and a pilot falls out of his cockpit — but Astro Boy’s natural heroism kicks in and he saves him. Finally, Stone sends the Spirit of Freedom after the robot — a huge vessel that blows Astro Boy away, causing the mechanical boy to fall to the streets below.
“He runs into a bunch of kids who befriend him,” says Bowers. “He meets a guy called Hamegg [voiced by Nathan Lane], who he thinks could be another father for him. But eventually he has to make a choice … whether to help the people of Metro City or just fly away from the people who haven’t treated him so well.”
The clip that followed comes after Astro makes that choice. President Stone orders a Peacekeeper robot to go after our hero. It’s an eight-foot-tall monster that has the power to absorb everything around it. If it’s around guns, it would take the guns and be able to use them, for example. And it grows from absorbing things — and those things include the President, who has merged with the ‘bot.
As Astro faces the Peacekeeper, it is now voiced by Sutherland and huge in scale, having also absorbed buildings and even the Spirit of Freedom. It’s a classic superhero battle, with the robots firing on one another and Astro Boy utilizing his butt-cannons!
Some of this footage will also be screened at Comic-Con this weekend, so stay tuned for more coverage on the film as we have it!