Normally it doesn‘t mean any good when Americans lay they hands on original Japanese stuff. Maybe you heard that James Cameron is planning to do a live action version of „Battle Angel Alita“ which actually is my favorite manga series. I am terribly afraid that Mr „I make shitty films and earn millions with them“ Cameron ruins it. In 2009 20th Century Fox released the new Astro Boy CGI movie. Completly produced in Hong Kong but planned, written and directed by Americans. I just saw this movie for the first time this morning and I was curious how they realised it.
I see that the work of Sam Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy and Kimba, is really important for many people in the USA. I mean, not only was Astro Boy the first anime TV-series ever, but also the first anime series to run in the USA. I know both Astro Boy, Kimba and even Speed Racer from my childhood. But „Speed Racer“ is best example for a classic anime series that was flawfully made into a live action movie. The Wachowski brothers thought they could make it great because their matrix trilogy worked so well. Well, even though there are many German actors in this movie, basically the chimpanzee is the best one in this movie.
But I wanted to talk about the Astro Boy movie. Why do I always lose focus??? Must be my non-functional brain Anyways, I was a bit suspicious. Could this work… Astro Boy is an all time classic. First of all it was a good decision to make a CGI movie and not a live action movie. I mean, there are so many CGI movies out there. I will cover that topic in a later article. And god knows, Astro Boy totally drowned among them. Til I saw the DVD in the library yesterday, I had totally forgotten about this movie. No question that I had to borrow this movie!!!
The first thing I noticed were the characters of Dr. Tenma and Dr. Elefun. They were very very close to the original Tezuka design. The story changed a lot to create the right dilemma that is typical for American CGI movies: kid dies, father recreates it as a fighting robot and eventually abandons it cause he can‘t handle it too good. But in the manga series it was a little bit differnt, there Astro Boy was also abandoned by Dr. Tenma, but before that AStro was part of a robot circus where he was rescued and eventually remodeled as a fighting robot… Whilst I‘m writing this lines I have to think of the story of Steven Spielberg’s „AI“. I mean that this story is mostly inspired by Pinocchio is true and I guess Tezuka also was inspired by that… circus, string puppet, robot, real boy, fighting giant aliens and mechas… Next time I will write about Carlo Collodi… There is another US comic-series called „Big Guy & Rusty“ that was also made into a cartoon series. This most likely is the US-Version of Astro Boy… BUT AGAIN I‘M LOSING FOCUS…
The movie rocked! Even though I have to admit that I‘m not quite familiar with the original material (I wanted to buy the mangas, but there are 21 issues, a bit too much money is needed to get all that) I really loved what I saw. The character design was moved away from the Disney-look Tezuka used in his story and the whole setting was modernised a lot. But the characters are funny, the dialogues are great. I even instantly loved the English voice artists. I‘ll come back to that point later. For me there were a bit to many comic relief characters. The RRF-characters were funny and brought in the right amount of slap-stick, but there were the window-cleaner-robots already. I very often have a problem with movies that are not from bigger studios like Pixar, Disney Animation or Dreamworks Animation. Most often the camera rides are not smooth enough and scene have a huge lack of details. In fact, the scenery often was too clean for me. I little bit more dust would have been OK. But the animations, especially the lip-animations, were awesome, the SFX were great. On the Astro Biy DVD there is a feature talking about the Color Script. I already knew this method from the making-of of „The Incredibles“. The lightning and the usage of colors was so perfect in this film. Most of the time it looked more like a traditional hand-drawn cartoon movie. Even though the time might not had the time and money Pixar or Dreamworks have, but Astro Boy is a great CGI movie for kids and fans of the original mangas.
OK now I come to the voice acting. In German the dubbing of those movies is most often done by actors and/or popular comedians. I mean we have a gigantic bunch of professional voice actors here, but big CGI movies still are promoted with this. But I watch movies in English anyway. Why should I listen to Hape Kerkeling (who in fact is one of the best German comedians) when I can have Jack Black in the original audio of „Kung-Fu Panda“??? I didn‘t know too much about the voice actors of Astro Boy. Actually I didn‘t even care. But there were certain voices that sounded familiar to me. For example ZOG. What I didn‘t knew: I had heard this voice yesterday when I watched „Inglourius Basterds“, it was Samuel L. „Motherf***ing snakes on the motherf***ing plane“ Jackson. I then watched the voice acting featurette and found that there were a lot more great actors doing there job in this movie: Bill Nighy (I love him in the Pirates movies), Nic Cage (don‘t have to say anything bout him, great actor, Ghost Rider sucked!), Nathan Lane (husband of Peter Griffin) aaaaaaaaaaand Matt Lucas. You don‘t know Matt Lucas? I mean, I didn‘t know his real life name, but I did know his face! You don‘t? Go watch „Little Britain“. Computer says no!
To sum it up, great movie, no need to worry. I only have to find out where James Cameron lives, to punch him in the face if „Battle Angel Alita“ goes wrong.
Viva la ROBOTOLOTION!!!