Metropolis (2001)
Dir: Tarô Rin
Star: Yuka Imoto, Kei Kobayashi, Kouki Okada, Tarô Ishida
Cert / Year: PG - PG13 / 2001
Format: DVD R2

Kenichi and his police inspector uncle Shunsaku have travelled from Japan to Metropolis in order for his uncle who to arrest the criminal scientist Dr Laughton. They arrive in time to witness the celebrations for the opening of a giant new building called the Ziggurat. It is a mysterious structure owned by a powerful businessman Duke Red. What Shunsaku doesn't know is that Duke Red has employed Laughton to create a robot replacement for his dead daughter (Tima). Rock, Duke's adopted son, also doesn't know this and in the misbelief that he is protecting his father from the menace of robots he kills Laughton. He also try's to destroy the robot but fails, and she goes on the run with Kenichi not knowing who she is or the real reason she was created.

Manga cartoons are violent affairs, with city destroying monsters ripping out of people's chests and wreaking all sorts of plot-less mayhem across cities meagre defences. Well not all of them do, and certainly Metropolis doesn't. What we have here is something much better scripted and much more western in approach. It is an epic sci-fi tale of man's fear of the technology that he creates. This is coupled with some unique and stunning visuals to give a superbly watchable and cleverly plotted experience.

The story has been adopted from the comic books of Osamu Tezuka by Katsuhiro Ôtomo a man most noted for the film Akira (he both wrote and directed this classic). It is a complex and intelligent story on an impressively large scale. It moves effortlessly from a cop's investigation, to a danger that threatens all life on earth. This scope along with the well-rounded characters and their interesting motivations make the film stand out above most of the usual Manga movies. The key character Rock wasn't in the original comic and looking at things now it is difficult to see how things would work without him. He is the key to the story a complex and troubled person who embodies our fear of technology. It is a credit to Katsuhiro Ôtomo that he has crafted such a great script.

Possibly the most striking thing about the film are the visuals. Computer generated backgrounds have been merged with cel animation characters to really good effect. This was tried in Titan A.E. but that failed due to the fact that the cel animation never matched the computer visuals. A better attempt was made in Atlantis Lost Empire and this time the animation styles were matched and worked; however it was only used for certain scenes. Here the computer animation has been seamlessly integrated with the cel characters, allowing for some impressive scenes and excellent camera work. Each scene is beautiful to behold and the level of detail is simply outstanding. The major animation studios could really learn from this. The only thing that may put off some people is the style of characters used. It is a little strange but it does match the original comic book, I found I soon became used to it, but it may not be to all tastes.

All of this would lead to a top rating if it hadn't been for a couple of small flaws. The first of which (and my major bugbear) is the awfully annoying thirties style music. It quickly goes from passable to switch the darn stuff off after ten minutes. It may match the art deco inspired visual style but it just doesn't work. I can't tell you how annoying it is (although I have just tried to). The only saving grace is the apocalyptic ending where the scenes of destruction are juxtaposed against the pleasantly gentle song, a trick that really works well. The other flaw is that occasionally you feel a little cheated on the action front. The revolution scenes being the case in point. You never get to see the battle and this is rather disappointing, but I guess that with a story on this scale something had to give.

Metropolis is a fine film. A great story has been combined with some stunning visuals. It is interesting and intelligent. The faults like to music can be ignored, as the overall effect is so impressive. This is Manga meets the west and shows the way serious adult animation should develop in the future.


Welcome to Metropolis.


(Tima) I am who?

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Anamorphic The picture really does the beautiful animation proud.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Well used sound track with choice of English dub or Japanese. Plus three sets of subtitles.
Features The Main Feature
Features Making of documentary about half an hour long
Interviews with the writer and director
2 multi layered animation comparisons
Promotion video
Various Trailers
Verdict Great film presentation with more combinations of language and subtitles than you can shake a stick at. The extras are very good, but probably not enough to warrant a second disc.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home