In the great city of Metropolis, severe community structures and prejudice dominate a world where humans and robots live together. Unrest and violence increase with each new day.
Searching for the scientist Dr. Laughton, suspected to violate human rights by trading organs, the Japanese detective Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi arrive at Metropolis. In the scientist's laboratory, Kenichi discovers a girl without any memory of her past life. He decides to help her, so they run away together. His uncle follows him and penetrates the dark secrets of the city to find Duke Red, the man ruling from the shadows. Meanwhile, Kenichi desperately tries to protect the mysterious girl from the people hunting her. However, Duke Red and his adoptive son have their own deep reasons for chasing the girl. These reasons are connected to her true identity and the struggle for the domination of Metropolis...
Let me take a moment to talk about Metropolis. Metropolis was one of the most notable pioneering sci-fi works released back in 1927. It was directed by Fritz Lang and written by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou. The film is a classic of the genre, in spite of some scenes being lost, and every sci-fi fan should watch it. Why do I bring this up when it has nothing to do with anime? Well, back in 1949 Tezuka Osamu, who you may know as the creator of Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, made a manga inspired by the film, also titled Metropolis. In 2001, Madhouse and Tezuka Productions came out with an anime film version. Which is what we're looking at today.
The narrative opens in the titular Metropolis with a celebration for the opening of the new Ziggurat. Our protagonists are the private investigator, Shunsaku Ban and his nephew, Kenichi. They've traveled to Metropolis to find and arrest a Doctor guilty of harvesting human organs. Little do ther realise that he's working with the great aristocrat, Duke Red, to create a specialised robot for a specific purpose. They find the doctor's laboratory burning and Kenichi gets separated from his uncle and stuck in a lower part of the city with the robot, Tima.
The story doesn't have a bad premise, even though it's not the one from the original silent film or even close to it. But it quickly becomes riddled with problems. A big one is the romance they have between Tima and Kenichi. It's incredibly weak with the two characters showing no chemistry nor sharing any substantial moments. They meet and they're amicable towards each other so it must be love, I guess. The biggest one is probably Duke Red's ultimate scheme. It reads like a bad silver age comic plot, but without the glorious cheesiness that made silver age comics entertaining. Instead, the film plays it completely seriously. The pacing is all over the place, with some scenes dragging and others getting rushed through.
The characters are severely under-developed. Most of them fill a basic archetypal role and never move beyond that. Which is a real problem when they try to get you to sympathise with them. Something bad happened to that guy with three or four lines? Yeah, if you don't flesh out your characters, we aren't going to care. The big exceptions are the characters with even less personality. Tima moves well below under-developed and is just very flat and primarily serves the purpose of being obsessive about Kenichi with little if any personality or motivation beyond him. Yes, the 1927 film was somehow more progressive in terms of gender portrayals than the 2001 one. There are other characters like that, mostly ones who appear in only a few scenes, though. Tima is the only major character with that particular problem.
The artwork is by far the best part of the film. The characters are done in a kind of retro design style reminiscent of other anime based on Tezuka's work. Which does work very well given the source material. The backgrounds are magnificent. The futuristic tech is really cool looking, although some of it seems like it was deliberately designed around looking cool while being grossly impractical. The fire fighting equipment in particular involves a bunch of small parts that all have to converge and fuse into the main device. It does look cool, but it makes the world seem kind of stupid.
The voice acting is mostly pretty competent. The actors all do their work well enough. The big exception is Imoto Yuka who can't be asked to emote and gives a very monotone performance. It may be a matter of direction, but I haven't heard her in anything else, this film was the only acting credit I could find for her, so it's possible that the direction was fine and she was just bad. The music is really good.
There really isn't any in this. 1/10.
This movie is not good but I would hesitate to call it ungood. Visually, it's a real treat. The music is good and the acting is, mostly, okay. That being said, it has a lot of problems. The story is weak. The characters are bland at best. It's a film that's flashy but lacking in any real substance. You might want to give it a watch if you're really into high quality animation and sci-fi, but if you're going to want a compelling narrative with interesting characters you'll want to skip it. As such, I can't recommend it for most people. Although you should definitely watch the silent film that it's very loosely based on. My final rating is going to be a 4/10. Tomorrow, we'll leap to something else. Possibly involving time travel. read more
Metropolis is…a silent film from 1927 by the German director Fritz Lang. It’s set in a dystopian future where some naive teenager tries to overcome the class system to pursue love.
Metropolis is…a manga written in 1949 by Osamu Tezuka. Its similarities to the original film are pretty limited, mainly because Tezuka hadn’t even seen the film when he wrote the manga. He’d only seen a single picture in a magazine and thought it looked pretty rad.
Metropolis is…an anime movie from 2001 that’s loosely based on Tezuka’s manga, but also tries to bring in some plot elements from the original movie. It had an all-star team on it, such as Rintaro the director, one of my all time favourite anime folks Katsuhiro Otomo doing the scripts, and the production being done at Madhouse.
Metropolis is…not very good.
I feel a bit awkward not liking Metropolis, because there’s a hell of a lot of things to like about it. For one, it’s fucking gorgeous. Incredible detail has gone into each background drawing and there is rarely a shot where characters aren’t moving. Even background characters are doing little things like picking up bottles and throwing coins and puffing cigars. It seems weird to highlight something like this, but when you spend all your time watching the usual cost-cutting techniques of anime produced for television, it really stands out here. The music is fantastic too. It’s very blues orientated, which ties into the seedy underworld feel the lower levels of this heavily class-based world have.
The movie clearly has an actual point to the story too. It’s about class warfare and how the lowest levels of society will rise up eventually. It’s particularly striking how the rebellion starts with the second class citizens throwing their little fight, but the real rebellion is right at the end when the robots all rise up under their ‘charismatic’ leader. Tie this is with government corruption and how the desires of those in power, as heartfelt and real those feelings might be, can lead to the destruction of their city. There’s some pretty obvious allusions to the Tower of Babel too and the danger of trying to become like a god. In other words, this movie is not like the other 2000-era movie with Katsuhiro Otomo on board, Steamboy. With Steamboy, all the pretty visuals in the world couldn’t hide that the story was a total damp squib with dumb idealism and pathetic characters mwahaha go my biased views go. With Metropolis, there’s clearly an artistic vision here and a story with proper depth.
So why am I not feeling all that hyped about Metropolis? This might be a bit harder to explain.
You know that thing I was praising earlier on in this review? How characters would always be moving, including the background characters? How detailed the background art was? The movie also seemed to realise how great it was at this and leant on it too much. You get a lot of scenes of one character walking, another character walking with him, the second character looking back and slowing down, then jogging to catch back up with the character they were walking with. There’s lots of scenes of characters walking through the streets, or robots doing busywork, or fat Tezuka designs smoking cigars. It’s all set-dressing to develop the world, but most of it is redundant. When I say ‘a lot of scenes’, I really mean it. At least half of the first hour of the movie was spent on these shots of ‘world-building’. They get very boring very fast, which also serves to give the movie a painfully slow plodding pace.
The story is told almost entirely through symbolism and representative actions, which I generally like. That’s how I normally feel a story should be told. Thing is, this leaves the characters with rather little to say, but speak they do anyway. This leaves them with nothing of interest to say beyond idle chit chat, which leads me to the obvious conclusion that every single one is a boring person. Occasionally they might say something of interest that ties into the overall themes of the movie, but because the animation has been diligently working that point constantly, it’s again pretty redundant stuff. Combine these non-characters with a story that takes forever to move anywhere and has very little of excitement occurring and you get what makes Metropolis such a drag.
I knew writing this review would be difficult. Reading back over the last 2 paragraphs now, a lot of the things I appear to be complaining about are aspects of other anime I love. The whole thing about characters not being people but merely ideals slotted into the story might as well be a line from a review of Madoka Magica. Letting the visuals tell the story and leaving the characters to just blabber on about whatever could be a line from a review of FLCL. So what is it that this movie is missing? Some kind of X factor? Some oomph to get me invested?
Perhaps the best course of action might be to look at the end of the movie and see what it did right. For all the plodding most of the movie did, the end really ramps up and provides some of the most striking imagery I’ve seen in any anime. Absolutely jaw-dropping, end-of-the-world events centring on what had previously been this figure of purity and idealism warp into a mutant-baby-from-Akira monstrosity, but still had parts of its original face intact to make the shock turn even more grotesque and eerie. That scene had oomph, but it also wouldn’t have worked if the proceeding 90 minutes of rather boring studge hadn’t existed to build up the themes in the first place. It’s one of those cases where some reviewers would claim you require ‘patience’, which is a nice way of saying that the piece suffers from an inability to make its world-building and set up interesting to watch and only becomes interesting once Shit Starts Getting Real.
When Shit Starts Getting Real in Metropolis, it’s an exhilarating experience that brings together the narrative arcs of several plot threads in one satisfying conclusion. It’s a shame that they couldn’t make the entire rest of the movie interesting rather than relying on high production values and hoping that alone will keep you entertained.read more
Metropolis can be considered a sci-fi giant in the medium, introducing heavily creative ways to show futuristic landscapes and featuring a solid story with great themes and characters. It also proved to be a milestone in sci-fi because of the huge advancements in visuals and futuristic storytelling, and even though the script wasn’t the most successful compliment to the production values, it’s safe to say that Metropolis has cemented itself as a highly important and influential film.
I am however talking about Fritz Lang’s 1925 film “Metropolis” and not of the selected anime movie to which this review is attached to, though upon further examination, it would be easy to get the same basic summary.
The anime Metropolis was a film by Madhouse that adapted the comic strip by famed Osamu Tezuka. Released in 2001 it made huge developments in visual presentation and how sci-fi anime were made (sound familiar?).
The namesake setting is where humanity has progressed the most in technology so far in the world, and has resulted in a vast, futuristic city inhabited by different classes of people and robots. As the higher ups plan to progress the bonds of humanity and technology even further, a young boy named Kenichi visits with his journalist uncle. It doesn’t take a long time before he finds himself mixed up with the big ordeal when he finds a mysterious girl named Tima, a robotic creation who appears to be completely human. The two embark on an adventure through the ins and outs of the metropolis to find out what’s going on with the politics, why the people have become so aggravated with the robots, and to find out what exactly Tima is.
The first thing to say about the film is that it’s enormous. The angles of the shots, the mass of the set pieces, the scale of the story set against very large thematics results in a massive product. Almost everything is explored to some point or another making a movie that certainly doesn’t lack in content. The only problem is that the lengths they go to showing certain aspects of the film is rather bipolar.
One of the main problems in most anime in general is that there’s a lot of telling, but not very much showing, meaning that a lot of the times characters only talk about events and developments instead of just presenting them to the viewer. In the case of Metropolis, the film has no problems whatsoever displaying its impressive setting and its story events in a beautiful light, but at the same time, there are constantly voices during the presentation stating the obvious or just saying whatever’s being shown onscreen. It’s almost as if it was catering to anyone blind who was trying to watch the movie. It’s like this for many parts in the film, though there are some great moments where the movie just lets things happen for the viewer to experience, rather than to hand feed it to them.
The other big setback is that not everything gets the amount of focus that it should to create a balance between everything. For example, we get an amazing amount of scenes showing how the robots work and how technology has progressed in society, and showing the functions of technology in different areas of class in the city; a delightfully meaty exploration. Unfortunately, one of the biggest themes in the film is somewhat shafted when it doesn’t take a lot of effort to show the struggle with Tima and her identity. It was shown quite a lot and it developed nicely, but it was never fleshed out in comparison to other parts n the film that got much more focus. They only scratch the surface of her problem, and after some recent amazing sci-fi cases of identity with characters like Rei Ayanami and Lain Iwakura, Tima seems underwhelming to say the least.
As far as the storyline itself, for the most part it flows very smoothly, but there were a couple bits throughout the film where it felt like something was slowing it down, or it was just stalling for a bit. There’s an odd mix of very fast parts when it doesn’t really need to be fast, and slow parts where it doesn’t need to be slow. And it certainly doesn’t help that there were a bunch of circle wipe transitions that did absolutely nothing but get grading overtime. In the big picture, it still moves like any old story arc, and that’s where credit is given. There are many other things with plot lines that are out of joint or totally unbalanced, but overall, the story of Metropolis is one of the good things about it, giving good themes and flowing at least well enough to keep investment.
Metropolis has a bit more focus on what it thinks are the main and side characters (not necessarily in theme, but that’s just retreading old ground). The time spent on each person in the movie is the fair amount, and it results in fair characters. For the most part, Kenichi and Tima are good kid characters, though they can be very simplistic at times, but it also fits them alright since they’re so young. The journalist, the politician, the various robots they give time to, everyone turns out memorable and unique, which is what anime does best in its character department. Big focus is also given to a boy named Rock, who wasn’t in the actual comic strip by Tezuka but added in as a son character for the politician. He basically represents the anger towards the connection between humans and technology, so in a way he’s simply embodying one of the movie’s themes. However, by the end of the movie, Rock ends up being an interesting and actually intimidating person in retrospect, and it only strengthens what the movie wanted to say about humanity. I thought he was a fine addition to the story who didn’t take anything away from the final product and actually managed to add quite a bit.
Madhouse proved that their situation financially was sky high when they released this film alongside things like Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and Millennium Actress. Just like in those films, animation quality is top-notch. All the movements for everything in the city and all the robots and characters move with flowing precision and do so often. The setting is oozing with atmosphere, especially since the anime loves to show the various different locations and what exactly happens in each of them. Fantastic animation sequences in robotics and in large masses of people provide a visual experience that never gets boring. This was also one of the films that tried to make great innovations using CGI combined with cel animation, and most of the time it blends very well and creates impressive images. However, for every 3D scene that looks great, there’s another one that look ridiculously odd and out of place. There are many bits with CGI that just don’t blend at all or look intensely awkward in an otherwise gorgeous world. Big examples include quite a few technological shots, some 2D/3D architectural combinations, and a hideously rendered fish in a giant tank in one of the politicians’ offices. Overall, they were able to at least get some good progress in the scale of things and how 3D could help create vast settings and result enormous shots. And since the 2D animation carries the movie half the time, I definitely think it holds up okay for today.
The music was made up of many great pieces revolving around a decent main theme for the movie. A large range of orchestral and jazz music provided very nice accompaniment to many scenes in the film, and are perfectly capable of being entertaining tracks on their own. Not much else to say but that it was a good OST, and probably even worth getting.
For some reason, I’ve saved talking about the finale of the film for last. Perhaps because I just want to keep within some form of a similar narrative structure, but that’s beside the point. I’ll just say it, the climax scene in this movie is one of my favorites in cinematic anime. It’s a perfect four minutes of pure results from everything else that occurred in the film, next to a visual treat including expertly paced scenes of action and bittersweet feelings. And that’s only the half of it. Your ears don’t escape the sudden rush of feelings and cinematics when from out of nowhere Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You” narrates every single moment of the compelling finale. For me, it’s always the best scene in the story, and following basic structure of storytelling, it’s only fitting that it would be at the very end. It makes up for a ton of the mistakes and fumbles that the film experienced earlier, ending on a good, memorable note.
I bought Metropolis having not seen it under the assumption that I was confident it would be something very very good, and while there were quite a lot of hiccups and moments of down-time in the film that stopped it from being something great, I’m still extremely happy that I have this one on my shelf. It may be too clunky to be considered a milestone and have a few too many flaws to be considered a great development in 3D, but for the most part it was entertaining and artful. Metropolis is a nice movie and that’s all there is to it.
I give this anime a score of 6.8/10 (3.5 stars) and a Recommended rating.read more
Metropolis has a complex story plot. There are several characters and events going on to keep up with. The story focuses more on the characters than the events which is kind of a downfall since this can cause some to get lost on the way. Overall the story is very unique and interesting. The best part out of the whole movie was the ending. I could watch the ending a thousand times.
The character development in Metropolis was appealing. The characters brought the movie alive; they are all one of a kind. Each of them had their own unique looks, styles, and distinctive personalities.
Metropolis is best known for its beautiful CGI; complete eye candy. The character animation didn’t blend in that well with the other CGI structures, but the strange daring mixture pulled me more into the movie.
I’ve seen Metropolis only in English dialogue, which I thought was great. Each of the voice actors portrayed the characters very well. The soundtrack to Metropolis was amazing. I really loved the music through out the movie, especially the ending song.
I would recommend watching Metropolis; it is a true delight. read more
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