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ASTRO BOY – John Ottman

October 23, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

An animated action adventure based on the classic 1950s Japanese cartoon series, which was itself loosely based on the Pinocchio story, Astro Boy tells the story of a robot child who is created by a genius scientist named Dr. Tenma after Tenma’s son is killed in an industrial accident. However, having been rejected by his family, Astro embarks on a planetary voyage of discovery, and uses his incredible powers to become a world famous super-hero when an alien race threatens Earth. Alongside an impressive voice cast that includes Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Charlize Theron, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland and Nathan Lane, director David Bowers sought out composer John Ottman to write the film’s original score.

By far the strongest part of Astro Boy is its main theme. In the “Opening Theme” is builds from a soft, cooing choir, into a brassy, swashbuckling piece for the full orchestra which is tremendously fun and maddeningly infectious. It appears frequently throughout the score, forming the centerpieces of excellent cues such as “Astro Fles!”, “Toby’s Destiny” the rollicking “Saving Metro City”, and soaring “Theme from Astro Boy”. Tonally, Ottman’s score is similar to the music John Powell provides for similar genre films, although whereas Powell’s work tends to be quite haphazard, Ottman’s cues tend to be longer and allow for more thematic development, which is very pleasing.

There is more than a hint of Carl Stalling in some of the whirligig orchestrations, with rambunctious rhythms and expressive timbres, although to Ottman’s credit he never really strays too far into the world of Mickey Mousing. These are tempered by some rousing, John Williams-inspired heroic interludes, and even a touch of Miklós Rózsa pageantry in “Reluctant Warrior” which is thoroughly entertaining.

Some darker material involving male voice choirs and more dissonant orchestral performance appears in “Start It Up” and “Egg on Hamegg”, the full-on action music in the likes of “Final Sacrifice” is loud and engaging, while the occasional electronic enhancements in cues such as “Blue Core Pursuit” gives the score a nostalgic, appropriately cheesy space-age ambience. There’s even some dirty-sounding Raymond Scott-style jazz in “One of Us” which adds further to the score’s retro feel.

Astro Boy is one of the most impressive, purely enjoyable Ottman scores for quite some time; the performances by the London Symphony Orchestra are superb, the themes are strong and memorable, and the simple, straightforward, heroic emotions are a great deal of fun.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

TRACK LISTING:

  • Opening Theme (2:06)
  • Astro Flies! (3:14)
  • Start It Up (3:57)
  • Morning Lessons (1:50)
  • Blue Core Pursuit (3:58)
  • Designing Toby (4:48)
  • I Don’t Want You (1:22)
  • One of Us/Meeting Trashcan (2:29)
  • I Love Robots/Hamegg’s Story (2:21)
  • The RRF/New Friends (2:58)
  • Reviving Zog (1:59)
  • Reluctant Warrior (4:43)
  • Cora’s Call (2:27)
  • Undercover Robots (0:51)
  • Egg on Hamegg (3:29)
  • Toby’s Destiny (4:31)
  • Saving Metro City (3:47)
  • Final Sacrifice (2:47)
  • Robot Humanity (3:23)
  • Theme from Astro Boy (4:34)
  • Bonus Track: Robots Are Our Friends Infomercial (written by John Ottman & Kristopher Gee) (1:27)

Running Time: 63 minutes 01 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6989 (2009)

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