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Western Animation / Astro Boy

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Astro Boy is a CGI movie produced by Imagi Animation Studios and distributed by Summit Entertainment in October 2009, based on the manga Astro Boy.

In the future, there exists a city in the sky, hovering over the garbage-ridden surface of the Earth. Metro City is a utopia in which robots have been created to take over many of the tasks once done by humans, from simple shopping trips to the dirty work that no one wants to do. Their creator is none other than the brilliant Doctor Tenma (Nicolas Cage), the head of the Ministry of Science.

As it just so happens, Tenma’s son, Toby (Freddie Highmore), has inherited his extraordinary intelligence, and is absolutely fascinated by robots and the science behind them. After breezing through a pop quiz at school and receiving permission to leave early as a result, Toby learns from a brief chat with his father’s hologram that he won’t be able to take him to the Symposium, because it turns out he’s needed at the unveiling of the Peacekeeper, a new military robot to be shown to President Stone (Donald Sutherland) later that day. Naturally, despite being ordered to go home, Toby hacks into the robot in charge of driving the car and immediately goes along to see it with him.

From there, things take a turn for the worse. There are two newly discovered cores capable of powering a robot; a blue, positive one, and the extremely unstable red one that resulted as a side effect from the creation of the first. While initially the blue one had been intended for the robot, President Stone, despite having little to no knowledge in the field, decides to use the red one instead. Disaster breaks loose as the robot goes berserk, and in an effort to seal it in behind a glass wall, Toby gets trapped inside with it. When the robot attempts to break free, he is caught in the explosion and completely vaporized.

The experience shatters Tenma, who soon gets to work building a robotic replacement powered by the blue core, giving it all the memories of his deceased son in an effort to return things to normal. In the beginning, it seems as though the robot is a perfect copy, but Tenma starts noticing differences, and rejects him. (There's an implication that the robot isn't as different from Toby as Tenma thinks, but rather he's seeing a side of his son he never saw before, because he's giving the replacement the attention he was always too busy to give the original.) As if the sudden rejection by his father weren’t enough, it isn’t long before President Stone finds out that Astro is in possession of the blue core, and resolves to hunt him down and retrieve it for use in the Peacekeeper. Astro finds himself alone in a search for his destiny, the place in the world where he belongs. At the same time, the president is hot on his tracks for the core that powers him, and will stop at nothing to get re-elected by the public.

The 2009 film provides examples of, in addition to tropes inherited from the manga:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Combined with Decomposite Character; Tenma in this adaptation actually grows to accept Astro as his son, whereas other incarnations reject Astro before becoming a recluse or the story's Big Bad.
  • Adaptational Modesty: To the relief/rage of many fans, Astro wears pants in this version.
  • Adaptation Species Change: The Artificial Sun from the original manga appears at the end of the film, but as an alien instead.
  • Adaptive Armor: The Red Energy-infused Peacekeeper. To the point where it adapts President Stone. Don't worry, he's fine and assumes control of the robot. Stone then uses a giant gunship as its arm cannon and whole buildings as armor.
  • Age Lift: Toby and Astro were both aged up a few years (approximately to their early teens, if an early bit of snark from one of President Stone's guards is to be believed).
    Guard: Jeez, kid. You're, like, 13 years old. It's time you grew a backbone.
  • Amusing Injuries: Astro is extraordinarily prone to crashing through signs, buildings, streets...of course, he barely gets hurt because of his superstructure.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The film ends with Astro setting off to fight a new threat posed by an enormous flying creature with many tentacles.
  • Armies Are Evil: The creators saw fit to incessantly hammer you over the head with this.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: Dr. Elefun says the blue energy sphere is more powerful than nuclear energy. A watt is a watt, no matter what the source. This is like saying a pound of steel weighs more than a pound of feathers. It's all the same, unless you specify the basis for your comparison (such as "...more watts than X" or "...a higher voltage than Y.")
  • Badass Adorable: Astro is just as cute as always, but is a superpowered robot.
  • Badass Boast: Courtesy of ZOG, right as he attempts to crush Hamegg underfoot for making him and Astro fight in the Robot Games.
    ZOG: I'm old school.
  • Bait the Dog: Hamegg gets a case of Adaptational Heroism for almost half of his scenes and he genuinely treats the children he cares for with care and respect, even comforting Astro on his first night about being an "orphan". Then he puts on his classic top hat and knocks out Astro for his fighting games, and later tries to callously abandon all of said children to that he can go get rich somewhere else. Fortunately, Zog holds him when the kids grab his car.
  • Being Good Sucks: Robots are literally programmed to help out humans and receive nothing in return. The sentient window cleaning equipment lament about it.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: After Astro pulls a Heroic Sacrifice, he is covered in (burn?) marks and his right arm is ripped at the shoulder. But then ZOG revives him shortly afterwards and he's all cleaned up.
  • Bowdlerization: The Fantastic Racism between robots and humans is almost entirely absent from the final film. As one review put it, it's nothing more than a "toothless" message about friendship. Probably most notable is how the Robot Revolutionary Front is presented as comic relief, while the original manga...well...had characters like the Blue Knight.
  • Brains and Brawn: Two-thirds of the Robot Revolutionary Front.
  • Butt Cannon: Astro's trope-making rear-mounted machine guns make their appearance in the climax to shoot out one of the Peacekeeper's eyes. He's just as confused as people new to the franchise probably are.
    Astro: I've got machine guns... in my butt?!
  • Call It Karma: Astro brings ZOG to life with some of his Blue Core energy; ZOG repays the favor at the end after Astro sacrifices himself to destroy the Peacekeeper.
  • Came Back Wrong: Toby/Astro. The memories were there, but his personality was different enough to cause Tenma to reject him. At least, that's what Tenma assumes.
  • The Cameo: The alien that shows up at the end of the movie is actually an Artificial Sun from another Tezuka manga and appears in the Astro Boy: Omega Factor game.
    • Zeus from Zentrix gets another cameo in the form of a poster in Toby’s room.
  • Catchphrase: Onward and upward!
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning, Astro learns he can tunnel through solid rock. Later, when he is up against the Peacekeeper/Stone hybrid he gets smashed into the ground, only to come up between the bad guy's legs by digging through the street.
  • The Chew Toy: When Astro flies around Metro City, Mr. Mustachio/Shunsaku Ban will meet with some random misfortune as Astro passes.
  • Child Prodigy: Toby. Astro is still intelligent, as he shows when he resolves the equation Tenma showed him; he just acts and thinks like his age: playful and distracted. (There's an implication that, although Tenma thinks he Came Back Wrong, Toby was the same; it's just Tenma never noticed because he was always too busy to spend time with Toby.)
  • Comically Missing the Point: President Stone in spades. For example, when Tenma expresses how devastated he was when his son died, Stone replies, "I know. I hate losing, too."
  • Creator Cameo: An animated version of Osamu Tezuka appears in the film with his signature glasses and beret.
  • Dead Hat Shot: When Toby is vaporized by the out-of-control Peacekeeper, there's not a trace left of him — except his hat and a single strand of hair.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Nearly everything Elefun, of all people, says to Stone.
    • Cora as well.
    Cora: (when Astro gives his fetid pizza slice to another boy) Don't be so nice. You're going starve to death — or be the only survivor.
  • Death Glare:
    • Tenma's a master. Nearly always against Stone, though an impressive one is unleashed on Orrin early on.
    • Astro tries it once or twice, but he's not up to his father's level yet.
  • Death of a Child: As always, Toby's death spurs Tenma to create Astro as a Replacement Goldfish.
  • Decomposite Character: While Dr. Tenma turns evil in other versions, in this version he stays good and President Stone fills the role that Tenma normally does.
  • Defector from Decadence: Cora. She still misses her parents, however.
  • Demoted to Extra: Dr. Elefun in the movie, compared to other continuities where he serves as Astro's Parental Substitute.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: The giant cycloptean alien appears in literally the last few seconds of the movie, with no explanation whatsoever, starts blasting things with its eye-laser and Astro flies out to fight it. The end.
  • Die or Fly: Astro gains access to his various abilities when he really needs them.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Long-Term fans of Astro Boy all know the story about how Dr. Tenmas' son Tobio invariably died in a car accident and caused the good doctor to create a robot built in the likeness of his late son, with only a few variants that allow for Astro to eventually break away or be separated from Dr. Tenma. So it comes as a shock that Toby in the movie didn't follow the fate of the other Tobios. Instead, he was completely vaporized by an out-of-control Peacekeeper during an experiment.
  • Driven to Suicide: Astro turns himself in when the army shows up at the robot fighting wars, realizing no one except the robots will fight for him. President Stone is quite happy about explaining that removing his core will kill him.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Astro and Tenma reconcile, and robots and humans alike start accepting him. Cora reunites with her family, while President Stone is arrested on charges of terrorism and endangering the public. Even though more conflict will come, Astro is ready to handle it.
  • Everyone Has Standards: The crowd at the Robot Games starts booing at Hamegg when he tries to taser Astro into fighting, only for Astro to save him from ZOG.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Stone is way too enamored of the Red Core. Experience fails to teach him that he can't control it, as the Peacekeeper asborbs him towards the climax.
  • Expressive Mask: The Faceless Goons helmets have computer screens to indicate when they are surprised (!), confused (?), or have [[Squick emptied their bowels]].
  • Eye Scream: Astro uses his Butt Cannon to shoot out one of the Peacekeeper's eyes.
  • Floating Continent: Metro City itself.
  • General Ripper: President Stone wants war with the Surface, even when it's clear that the people there don’t care about Metro City beyond being annoyed and everyone there wants to help the Surface recover.
  • Gentle Giant: ZOG. But don't push him, lest you risk nearly being crushed underfoot.
  • Goldfish Poop Gang: The robot revolutionaries. They're about as capable as a deflated tire. Case in point, their ultimate goal is to tickle Hamegg with a feather.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Tenma equips Astro with an array of weapons and other self-defense systems to make sure he can never come to harm. It turns the kid into a superweapon and it doesn't take him long to realize what he is.
    • The President wants to put the evil red orb inside the war machine to make it more aggressive and violent. Well, it worked...
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: The red and blue cores, which are described as concentrated negative and positive energy, respectively.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Astro during his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Go Through Me: The Robot Revolution Front put themselves in the robot killing ring to keep Astro from getting hurt. They get tossed out for their trouble.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Widget and Sludge, who also invoke Sibling Seniority Squabble.
  • Headdesk: Trash Can's reaction after his numerous failed attempts to tell the orphans that Astro is a robot. He even writes "HE'S A ROBOT" in the dirt with an arrow pointed right at Astro; unfortunately for him, the only orphan present at the time happened to be the illiterate one.
  • Heal the Cutie: Astro inherits Toby's vast intelligence and upbeat nature, but soon finds that his dad cannot accept him as a substitute for Toby. Astro runs from home and finds himself on the surface, where he tries to find friends and a new life, but he finds that robots on the surface are treated as mere property. When his identity as a robot is revealed, he is rejected, and decides nothing matters anymore, willingly turning himself in to the President Evil. Doctor Tenma decides to shut him down, but then changes his mind, accepting Astro not as Toby, but as his son nonetheless. Astro embraces his role in the world as a hero, and gains family, friends, and thankful admirers.
  • Ignored Expert: Elefun warns the president that the red core energy is unstable. He doesn't listen.
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
    • Hamegg is SO Nathan Lane, right down to the eyebrow movement.
    • The movie manages to make Dr. Tenma look like a combination of his original design and Nicolas Cage.
  • Is This Thing On?: President Stone asks this after transforming into the Peacekeeper.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Both Tenma and President Stone at the beginning of the movie say that Toby can't watch the demonstration, with Stone putting him in a safe room until it's done. Toby breaks out, determined to see it. He should have listened, given he gets killed as soon as it goes wrong.
  • Job-Stealing Robot: One of Stone's guards quips that they'll have to start checking the classified ads during the demo for the Peacekeeper robot.
  • The Joy of First Flight: When Astro/Toby falls out a window and thus accidentally discovers he can fly, he proceeds to have a great time zooming around the city, gradually getting the hang of this new ability.
  • Karmic Transformation: President Stone merges with the Peacekeeper shortly after callously ordering Astro deactivated.
  • Kill the Cutie: Toby. Unlike the original version, this character gets a fair amount of screen time before he is vaporized by the Peacekeeper.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The window cleaner robots note Astro/Toby's unusual hairstyle; he explains it off as "gel". Also a meta example of Product Placement: a hair-gel company did an ad campaign in which kids used its products to get the "Astro Boy look" to tie in with the film. The first editions of the DVD came with rebate coupons for said hair gel.
  • Last-Second Joke Problem: Astro Boy sees an alien appear just after Astro finishes defeating the Peacekeeper and President Stone's subsequent arrest, and the film ends with Astro flying off to fight it.
  • Loving a Shadow: One theory behind Astro's creation is that he is exactly like Toby and Tenma never spent too much time with him to know that. As a result, Tenma was in love with the idea with who he thought Toby was. But once Astro failed to live up to the ideal he started to reject him.
  • Made of Evil: The Red Core is filled with highly unstable, destructive, negative energy.
  • Made of Good: The Blue Core is made of clean, restoring and positive energy. Before it became Astro’s “heart”, Dr. Elephan wanted to use it to restore the Surface’ forests and lands.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: When Metro City starts to fall, a woman's dress flies up.
  • Meaningful Echo: The RRF on Astro's name, and then the kids' reaction to it.
  • Messianic Archetype: Astro, right down to communing with unfortunates, Heroic Sacrifice and resurrection by Zog.
  • Missing Mom
    • Toby's mother is never mentioned.
    • There's a lot of this going around; all of the kids with Hamegg are stated to be orphans, though dialog implies that Widget and Sludge may have been actively kicked out while Zane was apparently abandoned at a young age. Averted with runaway Cora, whose parents are shown to have been looking for her and are delighted to find her again.
  • Mood Whiplash: The movie crosses between feelgood comedy and dramatic conversations at the drop of a hat.
  • Most Writers Are Adults: Inverted; most child characters look and behave much younger than their given age. (Astro/Toby is said to be thirteen and more closely resembles a nine-year-old; Cora is claimed to be seventeen but comes off as perhaps fifteen; the twins are said to be nine but seem more like six or seven-year-olds. Zane, on the other hand, is fourteen and seems accurate.) Of course, this is long-term in Astro Boy — the original was claimed to be nine and looks six.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: The kids feel really guilty when they reject Astro on learning he's a robot, and he lets President Stone arrest him. Cora decides to commandeer Hamegg's car to fly up and help their new friend.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The blueprints to build Astro are actual drawings from the Manga.
    • One of the scientists that works with Dr. Tenma and Dr. Elefun looks quite a bit like Tezuka-as-drawn-by-Tezuka, including his trademark hat. Tezuka's signature pig-mushroom doodle appears on a billboard that's in the background of several scenes.
    • The bit where Astro drills through Mount Sophia is a visual echo of a bit from the 1963 TV series title sequence.
    • Several Reused Character Design characters turn up in bit roles, most noticeably Mr. Mustache/Shunsaku Ban as Toby's teacher.
    • Elefun plugging the Blue Core line into the Peacekeeper looks remarkably like him reattaching the cable during Astro's activation in the 2003 series.
    • Astro's movements on being activated closely resemble his first attempts to walk in the 1980 series. And when he takes his first steps, Astro makes the same squeaking sounds he does in the 60s anime.
    • Astro sharing some of his energy to reactivate Zog harkens back to him doing the same to the damaged circus robots in the 60s anime.
    • Clothing Damage results in Astro being dressed in only his original 50s Underwear of Power by the time the final battle is done.
    • Butt-mounted HM Gs. Even Astro doesn't get the fact he has them until they attack the Peacekeeper.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • All over the place. The sun-like alien that appears in two shots of the trailer only shows up at the end of the film and therefore has zero involvement in the story.
    • Not to mention, the trailer barely shows the movie for what it is (a heart-warming tale of a robot boy finding his place in the world) and decides to make it look like a mindless comedy/action film. Unless you find the Japanese trailer that is.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: President Stone seems like a thinly veiled "Evil-Version" Expy of George W. Bush. Just hear him about going at war against the Surface; in fact, that part alone is a huge Does This Remind You of Anything? moment.
  • Only Sane Man: Elefun is the only one who questions Tenma about creating a robot double of his son. When Tenma rejects Astro, Elefun gives him a What the Hell, Hero? about how he's treating a boy who calls him "Dad".
  • Papa Wolf: Tenma becomes one, ultimately willing to sacrifice himself to the military (alongside Elefun) to protect his boy. He also urges Astro to not fight the Peacekeeper, since the red and blue core meeting will kill both of its holders.
  • Please Wake Up: Astro Boy sacrifices his Blue Core energy to save the world and turn off the Peacekeeper.
  • The Power of Friendship: Astro is literally powered by this.
  • President Evil: President Stone, an exaggerated pastiche of General Hein.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes:
    • When Toby realizes he is in danger of dying.
    • When Astro/Toby realizes that Stone has ordered firing missiles at him, as well as when Tenma reveals his true nature. (Actually, in general Astro seems to have mastered this as thoroughly as Tenma has mastered the Death Glare.)
    • Orrin manages a surprisingly effective version when watching Astro leave the Tenma household, though only the audience gets to see it.
  • The Quiet One: Zog, and any time he actually speaks is automatically cool - it's Samuel L. Jackson.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Metro City Military are this in the movie. They hunt down Astro on the president's orders, but at first try to capture him nonviolently. One soldier is grateful to Astro for saving him, and they're all horrified when the President orders him killed. At the end, they arrest Stone for endangering the City with the Peacekeeper.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The negative and positive energy cores, respectively. Force-fed to the audience very early in the film as to which is good and which is evil.
  • Rent-a-Zilla: The giant Peacekeeper robot in the finale.
  • Replacement Goldfish: True to its source material, and deconstructed as much. Tenma realizes what he did was ethically ambiguous as Astro is not Toby but still sees Tenma as his dad. His father eventually realizes, however, that Astro is his son regardless and works to protect him.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Trash Can, the pet robot dog of Hamegg's band of orphans. Also doubles as Ugly Cute because he's, ya know, a trash can.
  • Robot Buddy: Played straight and subverted with the whole scrap heap sequence.
  • The Runt at the End: The remaining third of the Robot Revolutionary Front.
    "I'm Mike the Fridge. (Beat) I'm the fridge."
  • Shout-Out: Lots.
    • The Peacekeeper near the beginning makes The War of the Worlds noise.
    • President Stone seems like an evil version of General Hein.
    • The flashlight in the briefcase is a reference to Pulp Fiction.
    • The Robot Revolutionaries attempt to make the "Transformers" sound.
    • President Stone's campaign banner: "We Don't Need Change!" Subtle.
    • Astro gets attached to strings several times.
    • When Astro first visits the surface, many derelict robots approach him and eventually end up chanting "One of us! One of us!"
    • Astro's interaction with Trashcan: What is it, boy? Is someone in trouble?
    • When Astro learns about the robots destroying each other in the arena, Cora jokingly remarks, "What did you expect? Rock-paper-scissors?"
    • On his first flight, Astro swirls a cloud into an ice-cream shape, as the Magic Carpet does in Aladdin's "A Whole New World" sequence.
    • The two power cores being a "good" blue one and an "evil" red one seems like a shout out to Kikaider.
  • Sibling Seniority Squabble: "I'm older." "By ninety seconds!"
  • Strawman Political: President Stone. Cut taxes for his rich friends and starts a war to get himself reelected. Very likely a Take That! and No Celebrities Were Harmed copy of recently-former President Bush, who was still a favored target of all mass media.
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Justified with Astro: Tenma didn't want to lose him again and made sure he could survive basically anything, though it didn't seem to occur to him that these features would surely expose him as a robot.
  • Telescoping Robot: The fighting robot called "Little Stinker", which starts out smaller than Astro, but soon expands and splits into separate threatening entities.
  • Those Two Guys: The window-cleaner bots, who are scared into a bit of oil splatter by Astro's passage.
  • Three Laws of Robotics: Every robot must obey them, although robots like Zog predate them. Astro is an exception as well, though he does assert that he doesn't want to hurt anyone. Later, he moves into his final confrontation with Peacekeeper because he wants to — he could easily walk away, and almost did, thus violating the law regarding allowing humans to come to harm. It's only Widget's distress that brings him back to fight. He's also more than capable of disobeying a human's orders.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Astro only learns from accidentally falling out the window that he's not the original Toby.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Toby is constantly warned that the demonstration is dangerous, which is why his father is mad that he decided to come to see it anyway. When he sees the demonstration, he decides it's a good idea to get closer on seeing the Peacekeeper blowing up droids. This unsurprisingly leads to his death when he gets trapped behind the barrier and Peacekeeper's attempt to destroy it gets him killed.
  • Villain Has a Point: The only legitimate point that President Stone makes is that Tenma stole government property to resurrect his son. Namely, turning a boy into a superweapon.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Played somewhat inconsistently; it's a major theme of the movie that Astro and the other robots possess human worth, but the filmmakers aren't above thoughtlessly trashing a robot for a cheap laugh. Rather perplexing, seeing as the source material was all about playing with this trope, with some Fantastic Racism thrown in for good measure.
  • Who Is Driving?: When Astro’s surface friends rescue him, he responds with this. The answer turns out to be Trashcan.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Hamegg electrocutes Astro repeatedly when he refuses to fight Zog, much to the crowd's horror. Even though he keeps saying Astro is a robot, Astro refuses to let the man get hurt.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Ultimately, Tenma can't bring himself to shut off Astro permanently. He pretends to remove the boy's core, only to perform sleight of hand to return it and buy time for him to escape.

Alternative Title(s): Astro Boy The Video Game