Friday, March 19, 2010

Astro Boy Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 31.0 GB
Film Size: 23.6 GB
Film Rating: PG
Region: A
The Video
Astro Boy comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. While perhaps not the most technically impressive animated film, there is no denying that Astro Boy looks great on Blu-ray. The animation quality is actually pretty good and textures are generally strong.

I didn’t see the movie theatrically but I expected the animation to actually look a bit cheaper. Astro Boy does not look like a Pixar Animation production but it still is very good quality. The high-def encode provided for the Blu-ray release did not appear to have any technical issues, I didn’t notice any banding or other serious issues.

The colors on this release are fantastic. Everything is extremely vibrant and rich. It’s the type of movie which you could have playing and everyone would stop and stare at the pretty colors. Blacks are especially inky, but with animation it’s hard to mess up.

There is not one second in Astro Boy where it could be confused with a DVD release. The movie features a fantastic amount of 3D pop which is why Panasonic uses Asto Boy for its 3D HDTV demos. I really would not be surprised if we see a 3D Blu-ray release in the future as the material itself looks almost as if that were always the intention.

Astro Boy looks so natural in high-definition and will leave any viewer very pleased by the result. While the animation itself may not be up to par with Pixar quality, it is certainly commendable and looks far from cheap. The production values look quite good with this one and it’s one that could easily make for demo material. There are animated Pixar titles that look better on Blu-ray, but Astro Boy is presented without a flaw. 10/10.

The Audio
An English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is the included lossless option. Also included is a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track. Subtitle options include English SDH and Spanish.
The audio quality of this release is good, like most animated releases. It certainly benefits from everything being recorded in a studio. Dialogue is front and center and comes through clearly.
The film’s music is also comes through nicely.

The action sequences do expand more towards the surround area, but they live a bit to be desired. The final battle in the film in particular featured weak LFE. It’s not bad but it could have packed quite the punch if done properly. I felt it had potential to be a reference track, but unfortunately falls short.

The mix is always very clear but as far as immersive mixes, this one is not among the best. I think viewers will be satisfied by the mix, just don’t go in expecting demo material. Aside from a few complaints, it really isn’t bad. 8.5/10.

The Extras

Inside The Recording Booth (10:23) (HD)
The fairly impressive voice-talents talk about working on the film. We go behind-the-scenes in the recording booth.

Designing a Hero (10:43) (HD)
Learn how to draw Astro Boy. Then go behind-the-scenes of producing the character models and making him into a computer animated character.

Building Metro City (7:36) (HD)
Tim Cheung, Head of Animation for Imagi Hong Kong takes us on a tour of the studio and shows us how they designed the environments for Astro Boy.

Astro Boy Image Gallery: Creating a Global Icon (5:00) (HD)
This is a video slideshow of the many looks of Astro Boy, including the original character and newly developed character.

Getting the Astro Boy Look (2:50) (HD)
This is footage from an Astro Boy screening event, which boys and girls could go get their hair done like Astro Boy.

Astro vs. the Junkyard Pirates (3:32) (HD)
An all new animated short featuring Astro Boy and his friends.

The RRF In: The New Recruit (1:12) (HD)
This is another all new animated short featuring the robots.

I thought the extras included are pretty entertaining and informative, but Summit totally dropped the ball on one important aspect. This is definitely a movie that needs a DVD copy included, it looks great on Blu-ray, but this is one kids will want to watch on their own as well. I said it when it was first announced and it’s unfortunate to see a DVD copy missing. I do think it will affect high-def sales for sure. 5/10.

The Movie
Let me start off by saying that while I have always known of the Astro Boy franchise, it’s not something I have ever followed. This is the first time I have ever seen anything related to Astro Boy, so unfortunately I can’t speak whether this film is faithful to the character or his story.

I went in with no real expectations. I knew it was from Summit Home Entertainment, who is quickly becoming more and more prominent among studios and releasing some pretty big titles. I had no idea about the animation studio behind Astro Boy, but I knew it was not Pixar.

So did I like Astro Boy? Definitely. The movie while generic at times is actually quite solid. I find that kids in particular will enjoy the movie and look past its flaws. While this movie will likely appeal most to younger boys, young girls will also likely find much to love about the Astro Boy universe.

The film has a slight political message, although it doesn’t push it too much, rather implied. The message will likely be well-received by viewers, but I can understand how it may upset some. Don’t worry though, the movie doesn’t set out to push an agenda, I just thought I would mention it.

The story does a good job at introducing us to Astro Boy and how he came to be. The characters while not all memorable are very solid as well. The movie features some great action scenes and touching moments as well. I don’t know how well the film will be received by fans of the series, etc, but I do think most viewers will enjoy Astro Boy.

The quality of the film doesn’t come close to Pixar, but can be compared to the quality of some up and coming animation studios. Astro Boy will likely make for a very entertaining time with you and your children. 7.5/10.

The Blu-news Summary
Astro Boy has some flaws but is something many kids will enjoy. The Blu-ray release features a strong video presentation with a good audio track. The extras are entertaining, but a DVD copy should have been included. Overall the Blu-ray release is ‘Recommended’ if you can get it for a good price.

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