Astro Boy (2009) Review

October 17, 2009
For only being 12-years-old, Astro Boy's got some big guns.

For only being 12-years-old, Astro Boy's got some big guns.

In a technologically advanced future where robots are servants to humans, a spiky-haired young boy finds out that not only is he not human like he once thought, but that he’s actually one of the most advanced androids ever made. After a power-hungry madman has absconded weaponized robots to fulfill his nefarious purposes, the young mechanical boy goes out on his own, befriends a robotic dog, and with the help of some confidants, discovers that he is the only one with the power to stand a chance against the forces of evil.

But enough about the Mega Man video games. I’m here to talk about the new animated film Astro Boy, based on the well-loved manga/anime series.

Pictured: NOT Astro Boy... I don't think.

Pictured: NOT Astro Boy... I don't think.

First and foremost, the film has an excellent style that, while staying true to many of the character designs from the anime, still manages to find its own vision. It’s a very bright and vibrant film, and it feels like a fully-realized, candy-colored world. It’s an action-packed cartoon and it knows it.

That said, while I really wanted to like this film, there’s some flaws with it. Much like a lot of other animated films, stunt casting was used and not to great effect. Why have big-budget actors like Charlize Theron and Samuel L. Jackson do voices in the film if they’re only going to say three lines? They didn’t contribute anything.
Also, and I hate to say this because I like him, Donald Sutherland doesn’t do a good job. His voice attached to that particular character didn’t mesh well at all, and Sutherland’s heart didn’t seem into it.

I also hate to say this: Nicholas Cage did a better job.

I also hate to say this: Nicholas Cage did a better job.

I know that Astro Boy is supposed to be a kids film, but the humor, while not potty in nature, still feels juvenile. A lot of the jokes fell flat and didn’t really work. There’s entire groups of characters that serve NO PURPOSE in the film other than to pad it with jokes. Sure, I can tolerate the cute robot dog, but the robo-butler and the members of the Robot Revolution Front just take up space.

However, Mike the Talking Fridge had his moments.

However, Mike the Talking Fridge had his moments.

Overall, Astro Boy isn’t terrible, but it isn’t the best animated film I, or you, have ever seen. It’s above average, but not by much. It has a lot of good qualities, but not enough to make it great. The action is decent and fun, the plot is okay, and there’s a few touching moments, but walking away from the film, I couldn’t help but think how much better it could have been.

If I were 8-years-old, I’d love the shit out of this movie.
But I’m 28 now, so… yeah.

7/10

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The Cast of Bambi 2 Talk Shop

May 25, 2009

Review of Hulk Vs.

January 31, 2009
Wolverine shitting himself in fear.

Not seen: Wolverine shitting himself in fear.

My nerdiness rears its ugly head yet again, as I’m here to give a review of something that probably nobody reading this cares about: the Hulk Vs. animated films.
Since we’ve been entertained thoroughly by recent comic-to-film adaptations (well, some adaptations), I thought I’d take one for the team and watch and review the Hulk Vs. movies, especially since they may have fallen under everyone’s radar. Since these two features are in a direct-to-video set, you’d be inclined to think that they’re hit-or-miss, and they are, but they’re entertaining for what they are nonetheless.

First up on the chopping block is Hulk Vs. Wolverine, which I’m sad to say is the weakest of the two features. Given that this film focuses on two of the most well-known characters from Marvel Comics, you’d think that this one would be the best; however, that’s not the case.

The story begins with Wolverine being forced by the Canadian government to track down the Hulk as he has laid waste to a small village in British Columbia. Why was Wolverine specifically chosen to do this? That’s been left a mystery, but what we are told is that Wolverine has to find the Hulk before he causes any more property damage. After a little snooping, Wolverine’s tracking skills lead him to the big green guy himself, and before you can say Weapon X, both Hulk and Wolverine are captured by a veritable rogues gallery of characters who have a personal vendetta against the ragin’ Canadjun.

And here is the point where things begin to derail.

My main problem with the film comes down to motivation. I’m aware that one can only tell so much story in 40 minutes (both features together add up to be about an hour and a half), so some characters’ backstories will have to fall to the wayside. However, when your entire roster of villains in a story have no story of their own, it all just seems like mindless violence.

Why does Lady Deathstrike hate Wolverine so much?
How do Deadpool and Wolverine know each other so well?
Who, or what, in the hell is Omega Red?

If you can’t answer these questions off the top of your head, you should either head to Wikipedia for a little educational course in comic lore or just accept this film as a series of completely mindless, unmotivated, violent scenes. And yes, there’s quite a bit of violence to be had. Plenty of death, blood and loss of limbs — no joke.

(As an aside, Hulk and Wolverine fight each other for maybe a minute or two before they’re sidetracked into this separate story…. So why is it called Hulk Vs. Wolverine, exactly?)

The biggest saving grace (or most distracting element, depending on your point of view) is Deadpool, the Merc with a mouth. They really nail that character down and make him a nice compliment to the other villains. He’s genuinely funny and is definitely the most memorable part of the cartoon, hands down. Seeing him here actually makes me look forward to see how Ryan Reynolds will portray him in the upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie.

The next feature is Hulk Vs. Thor, which, despite my preconceived notions, was actually quite good. Unlike Hulk Vs. Wolverine, Hulk Vs. Thor sets up the world and the characters, and at no point did I ever find myself looking for plot holes or character motivation. Perhaps it’s because the makers of this feature knew that not that many people know Thor, so they did a more thorough job of explaining things. Then again, my passing knowledge of Norse mythology probably didn’t hurt in understanding, either.

The story takes place on the last day of Odin’s winter sleep, where the minions of darkness lay defeated at the hands of the defenders of the Norse god kingdom of Asgard. Loki, Norse god of Petulant Assholishness and Goofy Headwear, brings the Hulk to the realm of the gods and takes over his mind in order to use him as a weapon in one last, desperate bid to destroy Thor and rule Asgard.

The story, despite being only about 40 minutes long, still manages to not only give clear explanation as to what’s going on, but it also provides some twists and turns to the story. Not only that, but the animation is even better in this cartoon than in HVW. Given the epic nature of this story and the fact that it focuses on warring gods who fight with swords and sorcery in a mystical kingdom, the whole feature felt a little like an animated Lord of the Rings cartoon… except the Hulk is there. Which is awesome.

Whether you’re a fan of the comics or not, I’d recommend watching Hulk Vs. Thor… should you find yourself with the option to watch it. It’s not so great that you should go out of your way and buy it immediately, but it’s worth a rent… or download, depending on your views of video piracy.

Overall, this set is candy for the comic faithful, but won’t convert the uninitiated.
Hulk Vs. Wolverine – 6/10
Hulk Vs. Thor – 8/10