by James Whittle
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Astro Boy! Based on the comic book adventures written and drawn by Osamu Tezuka, Japan's 'Godfather of anime', Astro Boy chronicles the adventures of the young robot as he tries to find his place in the world.
The movie is a retelling of Astro Boy's origins, but purists may find it hard to stomach, as it deviates substantially from Tezuka's original story. The basic premise is the same but the movie's story and plot are a mish-mash of other stories such as Pinocchio, Frankenstein, A.I., I Robot, and half a dozen super robot animes.
There's a lot of thinly veiled propaganda running through Astro Boy, from the Robot Revolution Front's quest for emancipation from the humans to the Stalin/Bush Jr-like President Stone. While it may be amusing for parents to see Russian and Chinese political posters in the secret hideout of the Robot Revolution Front, these touches will be lost on younger viewers.
Astro Boy may physically soar high in the clouds, but the film's predictable plot and slow middle act sink like a stone, showing how big the gap is, in terms of story-telling, between Imagi and a production house like Pixar.
The Hong Kong studio needs to hire someone who can craft a well-thought-out and original tale if it ever wants to seriously take on the big guns from Hollywood.