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Metoroporisu (2001)

Osamu Tezukas Metropolis, Metropolis, Osamu Tezukas Metoroporisu, Robotic Angel

Welcome to Metropolis

Starring:

Dave Mallow

Go Nagai

Jamieson Price

Kei Kobayashi

Kouki Okada

Michael Reisz

Peter Spellos

Robert Axelrod

Scott Weinger

Simon Prescott

Steve McGowan

Steven Blum

Taro Ishida

Tony Pope

Toshio Furukawa

William Knight

Yuka Imoto

Directed by:

Rintaro

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 104 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: Japan

I’ve never been much of a fan of big cities. They’re loud, cramped, polluted, and you’re statistically twelve times more likely to have a beggar stab you in the eyeball with a used syringe. Having said that, even I couldn’t 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 I’ve 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 it’s seeing stuff like ‘Metropolis’ that really hammers home just how wrong that assumption is.

Unfortunately though, making a film isn’t just about having incredible visuals – you’ve also got to have a bit of a story in there, and that’s 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 doesn’t know she’s a cyborg you see. But we do! Arf. Talk about your doomed romance. Just imagine what that kid’s parents are going to say when their son gets home from a day out with his uncle and it turns out he’s gone all dreamy-eyed over the equivalent of a state-of-the-art tumble dryer.

There’s much, much more to the story, but quite frankly writing about it all just doesn’t bear thinking about. It’s 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, it’s both preachy and complicated.

‘Metropolis’ is a difficult film to rate, as there’s 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 Can’t Stop Loving You’ to accompany a climax instantly reminiscent of Dr Strangelove. The whole thing just reeks of ambition, and for that reason alone I’d hate to be too harsh on it. But, on the other hand, the plot is so impenetrable that it’ll appeal to only a very small number of viewers. It’s 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 won’t come as anything new to anyone who’s seen any of the ‘Terminator’ movies or, more recently, ‘I, Robot’.

It Needs: Not to be confused with Fritz Lang’s 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

Summary

If the storyline was half as good as the animation, this would be one of the greatest films ever made.

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