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.
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!
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.
Hmmm. Well This Anime movie was kinda all over the place but you catch on at the end. Sometimes during the movie i ask myself what happened to the orignal plot. But basically you catch on at the end. The animation pretty good for the year it was made in. The sound and music very well. It kept me happy while watching this. yup thats pretty much it. soild 5 for the all over the place plot the characters being well and the music being great.
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.*