Live-Action Robotech and Astro Boy Movies Take Flight

By  · Published on February 5th, 2015

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Whether it’s still thanks to the success of the Transformers movies (Age of Extinction was the highest-grossing movie in the world last year) or the buzz surrounding Scarlett Johansson starring in a Ghost in the Shell remake, Hollywood is pretty gung-ho right now adapting about old properties originating from Japan. Hasbro is even reportedly considering a GoBots movie, which would be based on toys that ripped off other toys (Transformers) that were based on toys that originated from Japan.

The latest news to further this trend is twofold. First is the surprising announcement of a live-action Astro Boy movie – following the animated 2009 flop from Summit Entertainment – based on the manga and anime classic of the ’50s and ’60s. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this next feature will be made by the Australian special effects company Animal Logic, which worked on the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron and The Divergent Series: Insurgent and previously took part in the production of Happy Feet and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. And they’re aiming for something “not soft,” along the lines of Iron Man more than something specifically targeting kids.

Animal Logic also did effects for 300, which also figures into the second item of related news today. Deadline reports that one of that movie’s screenwriters, Michael Gordon (also of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), has been tapped for the latest attempt to bring the ’80s anime series Robotech to the big screen, also presumably as a live-action feature (that’s been the plan before). And he’s working for producers Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton, both of whom worked on 300 and its sequel, as well. They’ve got a director in mind to be the Michael Bay of this hopeful franchise, too: Mama helmer Andy Muschietti. But he’s not on board yet.

Both the Astro Boy and Robotech movies face the challenge of meeting fan expectations and living up to their historical significance. The former is undoubtedly one of the most influential pieces of Japanese pop culture and animation of all time. The latter has arguably had the biggest influence on American audiences’ interest in anime.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.