Obviously Astro Boy has a following. Fans of the manga and anime incarnations will be sure to check out the new CGI animated version, but will it matter to anyone else? Kristen Bell says emphatically yes.
In the new film, she plays the voice of Cora, a caretaker to homeless boys in Metro City. Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore) is a robot created by Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage), who arrives in Metro City with all his robotic abilities (flying, machine guns, etc.) All he really wants, though, is to be human.
We spoke to Bell in a group interview this week in Beverly Hills, Calif., where she was promoting the comedy Couples Retreat. Astro Boy opens Oct. 23, and Bell gave us four new reasons to get excited about it.
1. It won't confuse Astro newbies. Really, "flying robot boy" is pretty self-explanatory. You shouldn't have to read decades of literary backstory to set it up. "You don't need to know anything [going in]," Bell said.
2. It gives Astro Boy a few upgrades. People who've been reading Astro Boy since 1951 or watching the episodes since 1963 will still recognize their hero. Also, the artists of 2009 might have a few updates that creator Osamu Tezuka couldn't have imagined. "It presents Astro Boy in the light in which I think he's used to living, but also with a slightly fresh perspective," Bell said. "People that are familiar with the manga or how iconic he is overseas, I know they're going to have high expectations. That's a little nerve-racking knowing that people are so familiar with this character, and I hope they did it right. I think they did. Our director, David [Bowers], was fantastic, and he loves this story more than life itself. I've seen it and I really like it. I think it's really good."
3. This Astro Boy has something for the ladies. Perhaps boys fighting evil giant robots might seem like a guy thing. That's why the movie brought in Cora. "My character's new to the story, but I think that she helped move it along," Bell said. "I like that they added a female so that the little girls that saw it might be able to identify with it as a girl."
4. It's got heart. We know they can do cool flying robot battles. What really makes these animated films last is emotion. Nobody watches Finding Nemo or The Incredibles 100 times because of the cool effects: Those films make them cry. Maybe the personal relationships between robots and humans can jerk some tears from Astro Boy. "Also on a friendship level, they gave Astro kind of a best friend in this one, which I think is really cute," Bell said.