Astroboy David Bowers

Astroboy David Bowers
Amongst the exhaustive array of special features on the Astroboy DVD, including recording booth footage, interviews, animation schematics and drawing lessons, the creative team points out their efforts to juxtapose the metal and asphalt of the floating Metro City with the earthy, Garden of Eden-inspired field where Astro (voiced by Freddie Highmore) discovers Zog. Since Zog is an ancient robot of mythic proportions, the implication is that of mankind evolving (or devolving) into technology, with this tale of a robot boy made in the image of a scientist's dead son acting as a parable for progress as a mode of self-destruction. Unfortunately, director David Bowers isn't on the same page, instead throwing in some criticism of American immigration standards, with robots performing menial tasks and being disposed of when they no longer serve a purpose, along with an overriding storyline that specifically attacks the Bush administration. While the central through line is about Dr. Tenma's (Nicolas Cage) morally questionable actions of building a replica of his dead son, only to reject him when he realizes it's only prolonging his suffering, the background buzzes with President Stone's (Donald Sutherland) creation of a war in order to get re-elected. On top of this, the entire middle-section of the film deals with Astro's impersonation of a live boy with a bunch of robot-hating, uneducated humans down on Earth. Despite a slightly disturbing romance angle, care of the spunky young Cora (Kristen Bell), this chunk serves mostly as pro-Communism propaganda, commenting on class distinctions and behaviours with a sharp criticism on the elite (who live, quite literally, in the sky). With all of this going on, it's hard to gain an appreciation for any particular thread, which is only exacerbated by the fact that the few moments of comic whimsy aimed at kiddies are woefully uninspired and second nature to themes of parental grief and mortal anxiety, something all ten-year-olds can appreciate. Unsurprisingly, Astroboy comes off as a sprawling mess, but it is a fascinating mess that appeals through confusion and awe. (E1)