Radio 10.24.09
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening today at The Majestic Theater in Greenville :
            “Astro Boy” is an animated film, set in the future, about a brilliant scientist (the voice of Nicolas Cage) who loses his son in a freak accident.  He is able to take a DNA sample (from a hair in a baseball cap) and then construct a robot that looks and acts strikingly like Toby, his dear, departed son.  Except, once the Frankenstein deed is done, the mad scientist disowns his own creation, who then must search for his own identity.
            It’s a world where much is done by robots, and the earth is so trashed and polluted (point taken) that it’s treated literally as a garbage dumb by the small island of super-civilization suspended in the air above it (think of a futuristic New York City floating above the desolate heartland).  “Astro Boy” (the voice of Freddie Highmore) finds himself slumming down on terra firma with humans that he has been taught to consider like dung heap dwellers.  But he is surprised to discover that there is, indeed, life outside his own little bubble (point taken).  The little robot-orphan can’t really figure out if he’s fish or fowl (human or robot), but both the cellar-dwelling life-forms and the rebellious non-conformist robots (point taken) are ready to claim him.  But poor little Astro Boy really wants to be re-claimed by his own Dad, because his DNA yearns for…  And thrown in for good measure, the boy is made of the good stuff (blue), while a maniacal politician is trying to develop superior weaponry with the equally-powerful bad stuff (red), so he can rule the world (think Hitler with different discrimination and better technology). 
            Hmmm.  Does anybody else recognize any borrowed biblical themes here?  Let’s see, aside from city of the sky being like Noah’s ark, floating above the sea of desolation, we have:  Father above making son in his own image and of his own substance.  Father sending son to earth.  Son discovers that he has extraordinary ability.  Son begins to develop a popular following.  Evil appears and tries to destroy the son.  He’s even, at one point, left for dead.  But he rises again, by so doing saving the earth, and becomes a hero to all, finally going back up to be at his father’s side.  Hmmm.  And this was supposed to come from an old Japanese cartoon?
            Of course, just on the surface of it, “Astroboy” is not as heavy as all that, in part, because the central character is a good-hearted but lonely little boy with unrecognized talents and family problems, which is why “Astro Boy” will be more popular with American children than the adults will expect.
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” for 93-5 KICK-FM