Created in 1951, Japanese comic-book hero Astro Boy has been a TV cartoon staple for decades, both in black-and-white and colour. Now he gets a CGI-animation reboot in this lively sci-fi comedy adventure featuring a starry voice cast that ranges from Hollywood heavyweights Nicolas Cage and Donald Sutherland to Brit cult faves Bill Nighy and Matt Lucas.
With nods to Pinocchio via A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Wall·E, the story takes place in futuristic Metro City, a floating island utopia that hovers above a junk-choked Earth. There, grief-stricken scientist Dr Tenma (Cage) creates a robot boy after his son Toby (Freddie Highmore) is killed.
Programmed with Toby’s memories, Astro Boy has super powers, including the ability to fly and (much to his delight) to fire machine guns out of his butt. But Metro City’s war-mongering leader, President Stone (Sutherland), wants to get his hands on Astro so he can harness his unique energy source for military ends.
Astro seeks refuge on Earth, where he hooks up with a gang of scavenging children who think he is a real boy. After a series of scrapes, including a run-in with a trio of dim, would-be robot revolutionaries and Nathan Lane’s Fagin-like impresario Hamegg, Astro Boy pulls through and fulfils his destiny.
Astro Boy isn’t in the Pixar league, but the movie has its heart in the right place with its pro-eco, anti-war message, the action is energetic and it’s fun trying to work out who in the eclectic cast provides which voice.
On general release from 5th February.