This is gonna be short and sweet.
The animation is really good. Incredibly detailed, unique style.
I have a soft spot for 1950's music. This anime uses songs from the 50's and music inspired by the era. I approve.
The story was not for me. Too much talking, I mean, fate zero levels of talking. At least that show had the occasional action scene in it to switch things up. I had a very hard time staying interested. I kept catching myself on my phone scrolling through Facebook for prolonged periods of time. As a result, I cant really tell you exactly what it's about. There are characters that are introduced early on, that seem like they're supposed to be important, but I dont know what happened to them.
The ending was pretty good though, and I did get into it even though I had so many questions, so that redeemed some points in my book.
This movie pretty much reveals what is happening to humanity even as we speak if you really dive in deep.
Metropolis is a movie with no real substance, message, or general appeal. I'm not sure why this anime is regarded as a classic by some members of the anime community, but I can honestly say that it was one of the worst anime movies I have ever seen.
Story- The story was jumbled around and all together lacked any kind of compelling intent or message. It's not that the story was hard to follow-- it was actually really simple, but they somehow managed to fail an conveying it properly in the end. It wasn't very interesting or unique, rather generic and forced. The dialouge is awkward too, and some of it seems really out of place, especially particular psuedo-philisophical quotes that were seemingly just thrown in there "And so the wrath of god decendend upon the tower of Babylon." I mean jesus that was cringy. Theres no real excuse for the lack of compelling story ellements as you'll read, the other aspects of the movie were just as lacking.
Animation- The animation was really solid, but at times the over-exagerated gestures of the characters did not reflect the lack of intensity in the tone and dialouge. The animation was good, but it wasn't really used properly. There are times when the 3D aniamtion is simply abysmal (the throne at the end of the movie).
Sound- The English Dub is really terrible-- really the worst possible choices for the characters, I mean Steve Blum voices a bald mustached guy (what were they thinking?). The Japanese cast is whatever. The movie uses a lot of stock sound-effects which got annoying after a while.
Characters- The characters are the absolute worst part of this movie and I meant THE WORST!! If you don't get what I mean by the end of this review then go back and watch the movie again. Kenichi-- the protagonist doesnt really have a character. This is a running trend that a lot of the characters are absolutely devoid of personality. Shunsaka the detective is extremely annoying and can often be heard saying completely illogical things that the writers thought were clever, but jsut come off as incredibly stupid. Tima is... well "kenichi, kenichi, kenichi, kenichi, kenichi, kenichi, kenichi, kenichi." Shut up! It's like Chi from Chobits but much much worse. I'm sure there is a charismatic way of doing the oblivious robot girl, but this is not it. And Rock is just a psychotic murdering asshole. The character designs are okay, but nothing great.
This movie is all together very boring and annoying, I do not recommend anyone watches it.
Metropolis the anime had big shoes to fill due to its decision to use a name already in use by one of the most stunning and influential films of the silent era. Unfortunately it didn't live up to the name, or the names that came attached to it such as Madhouse animation or Katsuhiro Otomo (creator of Akira.)
Story - 5/10
The film starts off with two major plot lines, one of Duke Red and his Ziggurat building and the other of detective Shunsake and his search for a mad scientist. Both plots are very thin on backstory and it makes it hard to really follow when the two stories merge about thirty minutes into the movie.
When both plots do come together it just become a bad chase movie, with Duke Red's adopted son, Rock, trying to destroy Tima, a highly advanced robot created so Duke Red can control the weapon hidden in his Ziggurat; and Kenichi, Shunsaku's nephew and assistant. They chase about for a bit, get caught, Duke Red implements his plan, all hell breaks loose and I just saved you about two hours.
There is also an uprising by citizens of the lower level, people pushed to the outskirts due to the lack of work now taken by robots. The uprising is the Mayor's attempt at overthrowing Duke Red, the powerful citizen ruler, but it all goes wrong, leaving all those involved in terrible shape and leaving the viewer wondering why this big plot point was ended with little thought and only seconds of screen time.
Really the only pleasing part was a malfunctioning robot (believe its named Arthur 2?) that helps Kenichi and Tima while they are in the lower levels. He really seems like a character stolen to create Disney's Wall-E, as he's basically the same exact creature but bigger (a garbage collecting robot that goes wrong and starts having human feelings.)
The ending leaves you with some head scratching, but I wouldn't expect much else from a film that is more confusing than entertaining.
Animation - 6/10
While watching Metropolis you'd think it was created in the 1980's, the animation is very similar to the time, but well it wasn't, it was made is the late 1990's and released in 2001, and that will make you a bit sad. I'm not sure if the folks drawing it were guys who hadn't adapted to a new style, but it just seems like 80's style trying to draw for the 20's.
One bright spot is the background animation. They put a great art deco design to really give it the 20's feel and the animation of the different surfaces, be it metal or marble, look as if they were real pictures cut into the film. The different aura of each level is also very good, including the brightness of the above ground world, grittiness of the first level, the industrial nature of level two, and the dirt and disgust of the level three sewers.
They also use terrible lens transitions to move time in-between scenes, ones that look very amateur and are looked down upon in the editing world.
Sound - 4/10
They tried to give it a feel of the 1920's, but the music just sounds like they gave an intern a few instruments and he learned two notes on each. The only part that really stood out to me was the use of a Ray Charles song at the end of the film, but all the original music fell flat.
Characters - 5/10
The characters are very poorly developed, we learn almost nothing about them and then are forced to create our own reasons for why they do certain things. Why does Duke want to destroy the world, why is Red so obsessed with being Duke's only love, what happened to Duke's wife and daughter that he wants to make Tima in her image, and why is Shunsaku trying so hard to find Dr. Laughton (we know why but we never know WHY.) Even the city as a whole isn't the best character, we know its in the real world as Shunsaku is from Japan, but we know nothing else.
The characters themselves are fun in their own right, but not great with their connection to the story.
Overall - 5/10
Metropolis was trying to be a futuristic film noir but really got stuck in being too much without the time needed. No character had the time to be anything more than a flash in the pan and the plot of man trying to take over the world, a revolution caused by fear of the unknown and naive boy falling in love, just never went anywhere.
Metropolis is a movie doing everything wrong. And I am not talking about the production values, which are great by the way. I am referring to the aesthetics, a complete mess of ideas and sceneries that strike a chord in all the wrong places and moments. It could definitely be a fine title, if it was aware of the way it presented itself. It could be great if it was:
1) a series instead of a movie. It has a very heavy on themes story yet only movie-worth of duration to show them. This obviously takes away a lot from what it could have been if more time was invested in each of its numerous aspects.
2) a lot more character-centric instead of story-centric. You are not made to believe that any one of its characters has the tiniest control over their actions. They are more like being pulled through events set in stone they can’t do anything about. There is also very little time invested one each one of them to feel like they are at least trying to do something significant in general. This tends to make the cast unsympathetic and even useless.
3) closer to the expectations of the era it came out. Its art-style is way too retro to appeal to the modern audience. Its themes have also been analyzed much better in older shows and movies to appeal to an older audience.
4) not feeling like a loose remake of the famous homonymous movie from 1927. Those who have seen it will most likely hate how they turned a live action to an animated feature with blobby characters.
So, why they made this movie then? I suspect just for the nostalgia factor. It is based on a manga by the late Osamu Tezuka (inspired by but not based on the homonymous movie classic), so it would feel nice to the people who grew up with his works. It is also a retro-styled movie which will appeal to all those who grew up with cartoons and anime from the 50’s. So as you can tell, it aims at a very narrowed audience, since most of them would by now be either dead or not interested in cartoons for decades. As for the rest who would really sit down to watch it for old times sake, I am not sure they would appreciate how it combined the old style with modern computer generated images.
Thus not even nostalgia will work. You get this obsolete-looking (in style) movie, showing a hundred events, each one not lasting more than a few minutes, and everything feeling like a dried up patchwork of sci-fi ideas you have already seen and analyzed much better elsewhere. How could it possibly work compared to Ghost in the Shell, or Blade Runner? How can these blobs of characters possibly make you feel anything?
And skip all that; let’s just suppose we are to criticize the events of the movie based on context and not proper duration or presentation, and without comparing them to any earlier works of fiction. They still suck in reasoning. Here, let me tell you why.
1) Workers take up arms to drive away the robots who steal their jobs. It’s as if the robots are to blame for everything when in reality it was man himself who created them to be so damn loyal and efficient. So instead of attacking the root of the problem (the people creating them or making money from them) they just randomly attack the symptoms (poor robots just doing what they were told). And even if that is supposed to be showing the folly of man, as he directs his frustration towards the wrong issues, it still makes no sense as these workers end up being eliminated by said robots. This renders all this aspect of the movie as completely useless, since not only they attacked the wrong people (or in this case, robots), they also didn’t manage to accomplish anything.
2) A detective and his nephew come to the city to investigate a case. Trust me when I say they didn’t do much of an investigation, as the robot girl was found by complete accident and the man responsible simply revealed himself. Another useless part of the film.
3) The big boss of the city wants to create a robot that will apathetically control all other machines of the world, and for that he asks to resemble a dead girl with feelings? This makes no sense.
4) What would the bib boss’ son would gain by sabotaging the whole project? He would definitely not make his father to like him more. Thus not even he makes any sense.
5) What is the detective boy’s role in the film? To look all cute and innocent next to the robot girl? He didn’t offer anything other than being dragged from one scene to another.
6) Why would we consider the robot girl to be a tragic character? It is a robot that hardly does anything in the whole film.
7) Why did everything go to hell in the end anyway? It is never explained.
So no, it is not a good film. Not by miles.
Overall: 8.3/10 (B)
I'm fairly new to the scene of film and visual media critique, and thus far it's been pretty easy to piddle all over mediocre titles that the less-discerning masses have heaped undeserving praise on simply because other more-established critics have shared the same snobby, down-the-nose opinions I've had. This, sadly, is not the case with the 2001 film adaptation of Metropolis, and has caused me to question my own opinion as I pen this review. Nevertheless, mummy always told me to write what I know and brush my teeth, and seeing as the latter suggestion has worked out pretty well so far, here goes.
Metropolis is a German expressionist film from 1927 (thanks Wikipedia!) that garnered much attention as the most expensive silent movie ever made, set in a dystopian world and using robots to explore the social problems between the lowly common workers, and the lofty business owners sitting atop their mountain of money. In 1949, Osamu Tezuka, legendary grand-daddy of manga and anime, released a manga of the same title drawing inspiration from the original, and in 2001, director Rintaro and Madhouse studios released a fully animated movie that, shockingly, shares the same title as these two works. What are the odds? Pretty high, seeing as they were attempting to stitch the two together à la Frankenstein's monster, or possibly the Human Centipede.
In general, the movie is terribly unfocused and can't seem to decide on what to do with itself, grudgingly flitting from scene to scene like a kid who clearly isn't thrilled to be munching broccoli for dinner. The scenes are shot/animated in a manner I can only describe as “touristy”, with the city being very much the main focus of many shots, taking up 95% of the screen with the main characters trudging away in the distance to their next checkpoint. This would work if the city played an important role in building atmosphere or being part of the plot, but the writers obviously weren't in on this aspect of the movie, and spent their time spreading the plot thinly across poorly developed characters that we'll get to in just a bit. The transitions in this are really weird too, with all sorts of weird fades and pans being thrown about, the most jarringly out of place being the loony toon-esque iris outs and focuses. All in all, it feels like the movie is kind of sauntering after these characters without much of a clue what's happening, or what's important that it should be focusing on. The climax was about the only part shot and edited well, but by then it was a little too late for me to start getting invested in you, dear movie.
The soundtrack to this adaptation of Metropolis is predominantly jazz-orientated, which would've been a nice welcome change (or perhaps throwback to the legendary Cowboy Bebop) if not for the fact that the movie has absolutely no idea how to make proper use of it. From a quirky horn piece playing over a scene with a burning building, to a nonchalant percussion-driven piece over a chase scene, the only time the jazz numbers seem to fit are when the PI uncle is on-screen. The music does sometimes revert to an orchestral score, which fit better with the scenes, but doesn't usually feature prominently enough to add much. The most infamously scene is right at the end, where Ray Charles' “I Can't Stop Loving You” gets selected for the climax, which is has been argued as both beutifully poignant, and ill-fitting as an elephant in a blender.
The characters here are blander than glass of water, with really only two exceptions: Tima, who spends her screen time acting adorable and discovering herself, and Rock, who is fascinatingly relentless in achieving his goals, even if said goals aren't ever explained or examined. Elements of robot prejudices, political uprisings, and social revolutions are sprinkled about the plot, but are of no more consequence than the bread crumbs on a piece of toast, and half as appetizing. More than once, I found myself beginning to get invested in the plights on-screen, only for them whip it out of me with the lashes of tired cliches, haphazard transitions, and nonsensical flimflam.
Now then, here's the part where I try in vain to hold onto some shred of credibility, because when it comes to the animation in Metropolis, I would recommend this movie on this one solitary aspect. For all my gripes and qualms with the pitiful excuse of a movie we have here, I'd be talking straight out of my rancid hairy ass if I didn't admit that every single scene, big and small, could potentially make me cream myself with its painfully well-crafted backgrounds and soft, colourful character designs. The characters jitter a little, but not enough to be distracting by any means, and impress in that very trademark Osamu Tezuka style of standing out without even trying, which is a godsend in this age of anime where every single bloody character has to hold aloft their token visual hook, and shove it in our faces everywhere they go like the product whores that they are. I might have berated the narrative decision to have the metropolis fill up most scenes in the movie, but string me up like the hypocrite that I am because I could not tear my gaze away for even a second from the scenic porn on-screen.
And that's the end of my review of Metropolis (2001). Take it for what you will while I mop up my drool and pick up the shards of my shattered dignity. If you happen to enjoy the wonders of animation, definitely give it a watch. Who knows, you might enjoy the rest of the movie more than I did. Certainly more insightful individuals than I have done so, much to my dismay...
*EDIT: I hadn't read VivisQueen's review when I did this, and apparently (s)he shares some of my sentiments, so Score! But I kinda liked my opening introduction, so I'm keeping it.*
Ambientada en una gran ciudad del futuro, Metrópolis, donde humanos y robots comparten el mismo suelo y donde las clases sociales dejan patente las desigualdades entre sus habitantes.
El detective privado japonés Shunsaku Ban y su sobrino Kenichi llegan a la ciudad de Metrópolis. La propia Metrópolis yace en una república no mencionada y puede describirse mejor como una plutocracia, donde un hombre llamado Duke Red es el ciudadano más influyente. En el mundo excesivamente industrializado de Metrópolis, la inteligencia artificial ha evolucionado mucho y los robots se ven por todas partes desarrollando todo tipo de tareas. A pesar de su inteligencia, los robots no poseen ninguno de los derechos que se le garantizan a los seres humanos. Para no infringirlos, no se les permite tener nombres humanos, ni viajar sin permiso especial entre los cuatro Niveles en los que Metrópolis se divide. Así, viven bajo unas condiciones parecidas al Apartheid.
Para proteger a los humanos de malvados robots, una organización de vigilantes llamada los Marduk y que ha creado un partido político, patrulla las calles de Metrópolis. Hombres fuertemente armados vestidos de rojo destruyen robots a placer. Es un secreto a voces que su fundador fue Duke Red.
Shunsaku y Kenichi buscan al Dr. Laughton, sospechoso de comerciar con órganos humanos. Ignoran que Duke Red le ha contratado para fabricar una robot extremadamente inteligente a imagen de su hija fallecida, Tima, destinada a acompañarle en el recientemente construido Zigurat, un montañoso edificio con propósitos militares.
El Dr. Laughton planea no entregar la androide y huir de Metrópolis tras terminarla, también llamada Tima. Pero Rock, el hijo adoptivo de Duke Red y dirigente de los Marduk, descubre sus traicioneras intenciones y procede a matarle a sangre fría, para después incendiar su laboratorio, intentando destruir todas las pistas, junto a Tima, en ese momento en animación suspendida.
Aun así Tima despierta durante el incendio y es salvada por Kenichi. El Dr. Laughton muere antes de que el detective pueda sacarlo de allí, pero logra sonsacarle información sobre un valioso libro de notas salvado de las llamas. Durante su escapada del edificio ardiendo, Tima y Kenichi caen por un alcantarillado, separándose del detective.
Así comienza para el detective una búsqueda de su sobrino. Tima y Kenichi son al mismo tiempo perseguidos por Rock, obsesionado en destruir a Tima, a causa de la relación de ésta con su padre adoptivo y el Zigurat.
Escapando de Rock, Tima y Kenichi tropiezan con Atlas, líder de un grupo de trabajadores desempleados que viven en la pobreza bajo la prístina superficie de Metrópolis. Demandan mejores condiciones de vida, al haber perdido sus trabajos debido a la mecanización, como los robots, y exigen de nuevo la redistribución de comida, detenida con la reciente construcción del Zigurat. Planean tomar las armas y lanzar un golpe de estado contra el gobierno y derribar el Zigurat como una vez la ira de Dios derribó la torre de Babel. La revolucion fracasa, Atlas muere, y Kenichi y Tima se reunen con su tío, pero son sorprendidos por Rock, quien deja fuera de combate a Kenishi y herido a Ban. Llega el Red Duke y ve que Tima esta a salvo por lo cual destierra a Rock. Se lleva a Tima y a Kenichi al Zirugat ya que planea colocar a Tima en el trono. Luego de pasar por varias situaciones, el detective, Tima y Kenichi se reunen pero algo pasa; Rock reaparece trata de matar a Tima, pero resulta herido. Tima ve el agujero de bala en su propio pecho y se da cuenta de que es un robot. Se sienta en el trono y trata de destruir a la humanidad creyendo que ese es su proposito y planea atacar las ciudades mas importantes del mundo. Pero Kenichi la saca del trono. Tima, desfigurada, entra en una especie de frenesí atacando a todo lo que encuentra, incluso a Kenichi.
Mientras el Zirugat se derrumba, Kenichi y Tima caen por un barranco y Kenichi, por amor trata de salvar a Tima a pesar de saber que la mujer que ama no es un humano sino una maquina. Tima, de repente despierta de su frenesí y se da cuenta de la situacion. Se deja caer para evitar destruir a la raza humana y queda cubierta por los escombros del edificio. El Red Duke muere igual que Rock y todos los guardias y personal del Ziggurat. El detective vuelve a Japon mientras Kenichi se queda en metropolis, y con la ayuda de otros robots empieza a recoger los escombros tratando de encontra a Tima. En la escena final, entre los restos del edificio se puede ver una radio que Tima encontro en un basurero, la radio se enciende y se escucha la voz de Tima que pregunta: "¿Quien soy yo?".
Luego de los creditos se puede ver una imagen de una tienda que dice "Kenichi & Tima Robot Company" lo que significa que Kenichi logro reconstruir a Tima y abrieron una tienda juntos.
Info gracias a Wikipedia!
Only from time to time does one receive the chance to meander across one of the game changers in anime or manga- quite literally in this case. The manga upon which this is based was made by Tezuka, the author of Astroboy and the father of manga and anime. That being said, the artwork may seem "old school" and the story may seem "clichéd," but that is because it is an old series upon which many newer series have drawn from. Anyways, onto the series.
The story takes place in a somewhat dystopian future with several political factors moving at once. Although some what would be considered cliché events happen throughout the show, if you remember that this was originally written long before any of these series were around, you can realize just how good the story is without having to worry about originality.
The character designs are, obviously, all based upon the older artwork styles, but I am personally a fan of this. The art style is a welcome change from most of the current art styles. The movement all seems to be very fluid even within action scenes.
The sound in this title is good, but nothing spectacular. The music fits well at all times.
There is a very wide range of characters throughout this title, many of which are rather interesting. There are no "pre-fit" characters that are quite common in many series these days. Several of the characters develop fairly well, too.
If you are ever in the mood to see where it all started, of feeling a bit of nostalgia, this would be a good watch. I enjoyed the show, and would say it is worth the time.
Having an introspective story and stunning animation, Metropolis is a film with much ambition. Unfortunately, it only has one hundred minutes to fulfill its goals; hence, the movie comes off as hurried and remote. Contrary to appearances, this is not a character piece; Tima and Ken-ichi are used here as pawns to carry out the basis of the plot. As great as it could have been, there's much to be said that Metropolis leaves only a blue print of its potential.
There are two primary approaches a robot anime can take: the machines may occasionally clash with humans, but on the most part their existence is appreciated (i.e., Saber Marionette J, Chobits) or the machines are resented and feared (i.e., Armitage III). Metropolis takes the latter approach; it was fairly interesting to see men complaining that robots are taking their jobs. What Metropolis does different from the aforementioned anime is that the robots really do not have the upper hand. Indeed, it was a refreshing touch to see that the machines have to follow certain rules and are sometimes cruelly punished if they step out of bounds. To take the idea further, someone decided to get creative...the robots bleed. Unfortunately, this really isn't grounds for sympathy but it's something to take note of.
...the movie begins slowly. It wasn't until twenty minutes have passed that I was even remotely interested in what was going on. Metropolis definitely suffers from pacing issues and this is only exacerbated by the fact that the point of view shifts too often. One minute the focus is on the uncle. The next on Rock. Then the camera's on Duke Red. Ah, now it's time to spend time on Tima and Ken-ichi! Considering the premise of the movie, it would have been best to spend a good deal of time on Tima and Ken-ichi, but to my surprise, their screen time is minimal. The pair really only have two good scenes together and nothing memorable happens when the two are by themselves. The pacing picks up in the last fifteen minutes or so. This is the part where the average viewer will stop snoring and snap to attention. The climax and ending are worth the journey.
Metropolis's animation is a paradox: It's excellent, but although made only four years ago, it has a retro polish that makes it appear older than it actually is. The characters often move a bit too slowly; their movements are certainly not fluid at all. I think this was intentional because (being a Tezuka work) the creators were trying to get an "old school" feel of the show. Last but certainly not least, the Cgi blends seamlessly with the surroundings save for a few close-up shots (i.e., the close up of a gigantic fish in a tank). I have a few issues with the character designs: Why does Duke Red have a nose like a vulture?
The background music is full of jazzy instrumental tunes. The song that plays near the end sounds like a Christmas carol and didn't match what was going on at the time. Voice acting gets the job done, but I take issue with Rock's voice. He looks like a young boy; as a result, it was very strange to hear that deep voice coming from such a scrawny ...
Because the story is worthwhile, I was able to somewhat ignore the mediocre characterization. There were some minor characters that were fun to watch (Ken-ichi's uncle), but Rock is probably the best. Although his "true" motivations (I refuse to believe that's all there is to it) are never revealed; viewers are given enough to fill in the holes themselves. He seems to have a sick obsession with "the man he calls father" and refuses to believe that this man could let a robot become the world's leader. His misguided love is very clearly one-sided and one could probably draw the conclusion that he's just hurt that he was passed up for the throne. But this is only mere speculation and there's really nothing in the film that says we shouldn't take Rock's actions at face value.
In other anime where technology goes head to head with mankind, humans are almost always the victor. The trick is that the anime succeeds in humanizing their robots so when the end is near we can find it in ourselves to shed a tear or two. Considering this, then, it's probably not very commendable that the movie's villain outshines everyone. The unspoken rule says that Tima is supposed to be the one to look out for and Metropolis sadly breaks that rule. Tima is a robot and this movie made sure I didn't forget it. She learns nothing (save that her name is not "who") and expresses very little emotion save for the requisite clinging to the first person she laid eyes on. Gee, I've seen this somewhere else very recently, but that other show will remain nameless. In the same way I feel no personal affection for my computer, I couldn't have cared less about Tima. Even when insisting she's human, she does so without passion. A robot can never be civilized without interaction with humans so of course Ken-ichi must take a few minutes to fulfill his role. Admittedly he's hard not to like, but this is solely because of his lovable and endearing character design.
Metropolis is definitely one of the better anime movies and it gets my recommendation. It's full of style and has the substance to back it up. It's also one of those movies that may get better with subsequent viewings. I watched it twice because I fell asleep for about twenty minutes the first time (which is why I held out the review for so long). The second time I didn't clonk out until near the climax which I saw on the first go anyway. If I were to watch it a third time, maybe I wouldn't snooze at all!
Perhaps the saddest thing about Metropolis is that, despite having the necessary elements to make a great movie, it lacks the guts to deliver; each part is predictable, not explored in enough depth, and somehow doesn't tie in very well with the rest.
In essence, a robot girl called Tima is the key to a mighty weapon; she goes missing, meets up with Kenichi the protagonist, and a chase through the city's underbelly ensues. Chuck in a hasty revolution by the oppressed underclass, some straight-forward political intrigue, omit any tackling of gritty questions and you pretty much have it. At its most involving, the story veers into Pinocchio territory, whereby Tima learns to experience emotions and form relationships until she believes she is human. Where the plot lets itself down is in the way it does not bother to connect us with the human suffering in Metropolis. For example, Tima and Kenichi briefly come into contact with the leaders of the underclass uprising, but they don't get involved, stay long enough or get to know anybody well enough to help the viewer understand why, somewhat undermining the movie's message about how sad it is that humanity is giving way to progress. A little internet research reveals the original manga by Osamu Tezuka as full of twists and quirks which tells me the anime polished a lot of the wow factor away.
Despite that, the setting is masterful, especially the paradoxical nature of Metropolis' society; it is very technology-heavy whilst maintaining a strong hostility towards the robots that run it. For example, Pero the robot guide explains that robots are not given human names because that would infringe upon ‘human rights'. In my opinion, this reflects the human irony of proximity breeding hatred as well as the sad fact that we can't help but ‘improve' upon ourselves when we know we don't like where that progress takes us. However, that's about as eye-opening as Metropolis gets; to a large extent it is predictable and simplistic.
The story may not be jaw-dropping but the animation certainly is; in terms of style, this movie lives up to its name. Firstly, CG is almost seamlessly integrated with the rest of the animation, making for breathtaking panned shots of tall, colourful blocks, spiralling staircases, flocking birds and milling crowds. The attention to detail is delightful and generous helpings of wide shots help us appreciate that fact. My favourite scene animation-wise is when the protagonists first descend to Zone 1 of Metropolis and we are met with an atmospheric, dirty and depressed world reminiscent of 1930s New York. A few simple shots provide an instantaneous sense of hopelessness. Just fabulous.
Metropolis also stands out from a lot of its contemporaries due to the way the cute, old-style character designs contrast with the mature and disturbing subject matter. Think Kimba the White Lion with a serious budget and you're on the right track; heads, feet and hands are big and rounded, with exaggerated facial features and no real detail in hair or clothes.
The soundtrack is based on early to mid 20th century jazz; bluesy sax sounds, up-beat jazz music, and smooth swing numbers meld perfectly with the look of the movie to deliver a potent manipulation of your viewing experience. I love the slow-mo chase involving Tima, Kenichi and Rock, when the music takes on a catchy beat that actually makes me want to leap up and bop. Not to mention the poignant use of Ray Charles' ‘I can't stop loving you' during one of the most climactic parts of the film, which is, once again, eccentric genius.
Metropolis is a moral tale and as such its characters are convenient cardboard representations: Kenichi and his uncle are guests to Metropolis and so the viewer's eyes and ears, Tima is the sacrificial lamb of innocence, Duke Red represents the unbridled ambition of science, Rock represents ideology, and the political antagonists such as the mayor are the vultures of the conflict. Needless to say, you come to understand the roles and views of the characters within seconds of meeting them.
Arguably the most interesting character is Rock because his cute character design masks a psychopathic, trigger-happy personality. I found that both in English and in Japanese, his voice had the most drama, and his parallel motivations of love for Duke Red and hate for robots were a car crash waiting to happen (the waiting being half the fun). Still, while it's great to watch an unstable character let loose on the screen, it's disappointing when the reason for his behaviour is never explained. Why does Rock love Duke Red and show such loyalty to him when Duke Red never seems to show love or even gratitude in return? And why does Rock hate robots so much when he was brought up by a father who seems to have no problem with them? Similar questions arise and remain unanswered in the case of other characters too, and in the end it is difficult to care about any of them much.
Metropolis harks back to the days when sci-fi explored possibilities and used those possibilities to glean an understanding of human nature. It is the kind of tale we don't really see much anymore because our era belongs to the cynic and, let's face it, morals are kinda passé. However, despite its flaws, there is a fanciful flair to Metropolis' approach which still makes it enjoyable.