It would be understandable if fans of the classic 1960s anime Astro Boy felt a little cheated after yesterday afternoon’s Summit Entertainment panel at the New York Comic Con, where the big screen adaptation of the cartoon was promoted to be a major topic of conversation. Unlike the other two films Summit was promoting at the show – Knowing and The Hurt Locker – there was only some production art and a screening of a short segment from the film. What was presented did not inspire much confidence in the project.
(Not that there was many people on hand for the entire Summit Entertainment panel anyway, with less than 100 people in the main exhibit hall where the panel was being held.)
Instead of any production personnel being on hand to talk about the upcoming film and answer audience questions, it was left to the panel moderator to explain to the uninitiated that Astro Boy is a robot boy constructed by a scientist in the floating city of Metro City. And yes, there is a mountain that floats along with it.He also explained that the central conflict in the film would be between Astro Boy and a malfunctioning Peacekeeper robot that has the ability to absorb and adapt new technology into itself. To add in his explainations, new production art was presented, mostly showing how the original look of the character had been refined, keeping the classic design, but just adding in a layer of detail. In addition to Astro Boy’s rocket boots and arms that transform into cannons, he would also retain the original cartoon’s “butt canons.”
Some of the presented artwork is available at IGN Movies.
The short clip shown was the sequence in which Astro Boy discovers he can fly. It opened with a screaming AB falling down the side of an art deco skyscraper. Disappearing below the bottom of the frame, there is silence for a moment before Astro Boy pops back up, his feet replaced with rockets. Astro Boy is surprised, but obviously delighted, over the transformation. He takes a few moments to try out this new found feature, switching both thee right and left leg jet on and off, learning how to control the jets. As he does this, there is some expected slapstick, with Astro Boy slamming into buildings and almost hitting one of the Metro City monorails. Finally, he gains some degree of skill and proceeds to loop around Metro City before driving straight up through the clouds. After taking a moment to bask in the warmth of the sun, Astro Boy dives back down, heading straight for the mountain Metro City is built at the base of. He slams into its side, fists pumping away furiously, digging a tunnel that slowly arcs upward. As Astro Boy suddenly bursts through the top of the mountain, the clip ends.
While the footage was technically well executed, though there were a few shots that weren’t fully rendered, I found it artiscally fairly uninspired. Several films have captured the wonder and magic of the ability of flight – Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service springs immediately to mind. But there didn’t seem to be that feeling captured here. Instead, we get some comedic action beats most recently seen in last summer’s Iron Man (Tony Stark testing his armor’s jet boots) with some bits of average and obvious humor. During Astro Boy’s flight through Metro City, he flies over a sidewalk cafe table whose occupant was just complaining to a waiter that his steak was undercooked. Of course, there’s going to be a charred, smoking lump of meat in Astro Boy’s wake. Some visuals aped similar scenes from other movies. The long shot of Astro Boy breaking through the top of the cloud cover to the golden hues of the sun is remarkably similar to a shot from Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns.
I would guess that this segment was selected to be shown because it ended with the classic scene of Astro Boy tunneling through a mountain and then bursting through the top. However, I am hoping that the fimmakers are bringing something of their own to this film if they want it to succeed when it gets released next fall.