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
Adapted from the comic strip by famed Osamu Tezuka (which drew inspiration from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film of the same name), Metropolis was created in 2001 by Madhouse studios and made massive leaps in 3D integration for the anime medium. Comparing the film realistically to the black and white film is utterly pointless, as this movie truly is it’s own special entity with its own collection of accomplishments and faults.
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 in the city below. It doesn’t take a long time before he finds himself mixed up with the big ordeal when he encounters 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 looks huge. I always thought of Metropolis as a friendlier version of Akira, sporting the same massive presence in the angles of the shots, the mass of the set pieces, and the scale of the story set against very large thematics. The focus on the size and depth of the setting and the population makes a movie that always proves to be an entertaining spectacle.
One of the main problems in most anime in general is that there’s a bit to much tell to its show. At times, the characters only talk about events and developments instead of the piece just presenting them to the viewer. Even worse in Metropolis, it has no problems whatsoever displaying its impressive setting and main story events beautifully while there are constant voices that state the obvious or just reiterate whatever’s being shown onscreen. A filmmaker like Miyazaki can get away with this (and even make it charming) because his audience covers a wide audience. Metropolis unfortunately has bits of content that I’d deem inappropriate for younger kids, so even though it treats itself like a family film (and I wish that I could recommend it as such), it doesn’t fit the bill. So we’re stuck with a movie that seems unaware that it has left its youngsters behind. Besides that complaint, there are still great moments where the movie just lets things happen for the viewer to experience, balancing out better.
The other big setback is that not everything gets the amount of focus to feel perfectly stable. For example, we get an delightful amount of scenes showing how the robots work, showing the functions of technology in different areas of class in the city. Sadly however, one of the biggest themes in the film is somewhat shafted when it doesn’t take much time to show the struggle with Tima and her identity. It was never fleshed out in comparison to other aspects of the film. They only really scratch the surface, and after recent anime sci-fi cases of ambiguous identity with characters like Rei Ayanami and Lain Iwakura, Tima seems unimpressive.
The storyline itself flows very well for the most part, but there were bits throughout the film that felt sluggish or rushed where it didn’t feel quite right. That’s more of a nitpick in the big picture; It still moves forward fine enough to keep investment, and that’s where credit is given. The movie divvies up its time spent on each of the characters in fair amounts. Kenichi and Tima are good kid characters despite their general simplicity, but it fits them alright since they are so young. The journalist, the politician, and the various robots they give time to turn out to be unique in design and mannerism, which is what anime as a medium does best in its character department. Big focus is also given to a boy named Rock, who wasn’t in the comic strip by Tezuka but added in to represent the anger towards the connection between humans and technology. In a way he simply embodies one of the movie’s themes, though redundant in some ways and ultimately required for the compacted narrative.
Madhouse proved that their finances were sky high when they released Metropolis alongside works like Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and Millennium Actress. All three of these films have top notch animation quality. All of the characters, robots and background extras move with flowing precision and are proudly displayed constantly throughout the movie. The settings ooze atmosphere and detail, especially since the anime loves to show the various locations and what exactly happens in each of them. This was also one of the films that tried using more CGI combined with cel animation, and most of the time it blends fine and creates impressive images. But for every 3D scene that looks good, there’s another one that look ridiculously odd and out of place. Big examples include select shots of mechanics, some 2D/3D architectural combinations, and a hideously rendered fish in one scene. They were able to make some good progress in the scale of things and how 3D could help create vast settings, and since the 2D animation carries the movie most of 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 nice accompaniment to many scenes in the film, and are perfectly capable of being entertaining tracks on their own. It’s probably an OST that would even be worth hunting down.
And it is during the music segment that I bring up the film’s fantastic finale. The climax scene in this movie is a favorite of mine; A perfect four minutes of pure results from everything else built up in the film, next to a visual treat of expertly paced scenes of action and bittersweet emotion. From out of nowhere, Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You” narrates every single moment of the compelling finale. For me it’s 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 previous mistakes and fumbles, ending on a solid, memorable note.
Metropolis may be too clunky to be considered a true milestone or a perfect development in 3D, but for the most part it was entertaining and artful. The visuals compensate for what the story fumbles with, which isn’t a sentence you’re going to see me type often. Metropolis is a nice movie and that’s all there is to it.
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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