Osamu Tezukas Metropolis, Metropolis, Osamu Tezukas Metoroporisu, Robotic Angel
Welcome to Metropolis
Running Time: 104 minutes
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: PG
Ive never been much of a fan of big cities. Theyre loud, cramped, polluted, and youre statistically twelve times more likely to have a beggar stab you in the eyeball with a used syringe. Having said that, even I couldnt fail to be blown away by the jaw-dropping urban sprawl of Metropolis, the lavish anime epic based on the 1949 comic book by Osamu Tezuka.
Painstakingly brought to the screen by director Rintaro and a ridiculously talented team of toonsmiths, this detailed and sumptuously designed sci-fi adventure is quite possibly the finest example of 2D animation Ive ever seen. With Pixar king of the animation castle these days, it can be all too easy to fall into the same trap as Disney and write-off 2D as a dead duck. But its seeing stuff like Metropolis that really hammers home just how wrong that assumption is.
Unfortunately though, making a film isnt just about having incredible visuals youve also got to have a bit of a story in there, and thats where Metropolis goes arse over tit. Set in a sort of 1940s vision of the future (I was reminded a little of the inferior Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), it tells the tale of political wrangling and technological upheaval in the multi-layered city of the title. Duke Red, an eagle-faced revolutionary, has hired a mad scientist by the name of Dr Laughton to build him an all-powerful humanoid in the image of dead daughter Tima to help him steal control of Metropolis from the elected politicians.
A rat is smelled, and private eye Ban Syunsaku is hired to do some snooping. He brings nephew Kinichi along with him for the ride, and before you know it the young un has befriended – and perhaps even fallen in love with Tima. He doesnt know shes a cyborg you see. But we do! Arf. Talk about your doomed romance. Just imagine what that kids parents are going to say when their son gets home from a day out with his uncle and it turns out hes gone all dreamy-eyed over the equivalent of a state-of-the-art tumble dryer.
Theres much, much more to the story, but quite frankly writing about it all just doesnt bear thinking about. Its clunky, difficult to follow, and stops just short of using a sledgehammer to get the message across that we should all be more tolerant of each other. In short, its both preachy and complicated.
Metropolis is a difficult film to rate, as theres a lot to like about it. Apart from the wonderful animation, it possesses a daring jazzy soundtrack, culminating in the use of Ray Charles I Cant Stop Loving You to accompany a climax instantly reminiscent of Dr Strangelove. The whole thing just reeks of ambition, and for that reason alone Id hate to be too harsh on it. But, on the other hand, the plot is so impenetrable that itll appeal to only a very small number of viewers. Its undoubtedly a feast for the eyes, but definitely not for the mind.
It's Got: A cautionary message about our increasing reliance on machines. That wont come as anything new to anyone whos seen any of the Terminator movies or, more recently, I, Robot.
It Needs: Not to be confused with Fritz Langs silent 1927 flick of the same name although it was the poster artwork for that film which apparently inspired Osamu Tezuka to go away and draw the comic strip!
DVD Extras Disc 1 has a bunch of trailers, but Disc 2 is where the real goodies are kept. You get The Making of Metropolis, film-maker interviews, animation comparisons, a photo gallery, a featurette on the history of the Metropolis comic book, cast and crew filmographies, and additional comments. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10
Alternatives:Astro Boy, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, Memories
If the storyline was half as good as the animation, this would be one of the greatest films ever made.