The Scoop: 2001 PG-13, directed by Rintaro and starring Kei Kobayashi, Kousei Tomita, and Yuka Imoto (Brianne Siddall, Tony Pope, and Rebecca Forstadt)
Tagline: Welcome to Metropolis
Summary Capsule: The future ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. As usual.
DnaError’s Rating: Anime Is Weird
DnaError’s Review: I want to like anime, I really do. Its saturation in the geek oeuvre makes it hard to escape, and as an art student I should be paying attention to what them wacky foreigners are doing with ink and paint. But for the life of me, I cannot get into any of it. The huge robots, the 80s synth music, the low frame rates, the pink-ribbon magical girls, the deformed bodies and horrible dubbing. And don’t send me e-mails telling me I must check out your obscure fansubbed tapes of Magical Scroll Fighter Ninja Fortress 3. I have seen it and hated it. With my biases out of the way I can say with a clear head that Metropolis almost doesn’t suck.
Based EXTREMELY loosely on the Fritz Lang classic silent sci-fi, Metropolis (the director only saw a poster for the movie) this anime of the same name tells the tale of a grand futuristic city in which robots work alongside humans. But all is not well with the arrangement, as any Philip K. Dick reader will know. Trouble happens and lots of people run around screaming. First things first, this movie looks amazing. Words can’t convey the feeling seeing sweeping art deco towers stacked impossibly on each other or intricately designed and populated environments. Every detail, from lampposts to food stands have been worked with so much care and design that it seeps through the film stock. We’re so used to every reviewer under the sun saying “STUNNING!” at whatever movie comes by, but this blows them all away. I admit to having a bias towards futuristic cities, but having seen so many of them, I can say that Metropolis‘s retro-1930s cityscape stands alone. The level of mood and lighting, from the massive, interlocking Fifth Element sky cities to the grungy and dangerous lower city levels, there is not a single frame of this movie I wouldn’t want to have on my wall. Character design leaves a lot wanting, they borrowed a lot from the big-eyed-button-nosed 1930s cartoon look (Betty Boop, etc.). The result has the feel of a Ralph Bakshi fever dream and clashes horribly with the steam-lined backgrounds.
However, and this may be the biggest “However” I’ve ever written, the story and characters are beyond bad. Its badness defies description. The patchwork, mishmash of characters and story makes me think the entire screenplay was created using magnetic poetry. The plot lines scoff at Euclidean geometry in their disturbing randomness. When not outright bad/confusing/incomprehensible, it’s cheesy and obvious as amateur dinner theater. The mumbly, shoestring voice actors don’t help.
So don’t see Metropolis for anything more then an astounding visual work. My massive envy goes out to the artists who got to work on it. See it for the jazzy, Dixieland soundtrack and smooth CGI/blend. Just don’t blame me if you walk out going “Huh?”.
- A loose adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s 1949 manga, itself a very loose adaptation of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis based only on a still of the robot’s creation.
- The Japanese release of the film shows a picture after the credits depicting a shop named “Kenichi & Tima Robot Company,” with Tima visible in the window. This implies that Kenichi succeeded in rebuilding Tima and they set up the shop together. This picture was included in the English theatrical release and Blu-ray printing, though not on the DVD release.
- It was in production for 5 years. A total of 150,000 animation cells were used.
- The film has a brief “coda” scene following the end credits. A shop building is shown with a sign reading, “Kenichi and Tima Robot Company,” with Tima visible in a window of the shop. The scene suggests that Kenichi managed to rebuild Tima, and they set up the shop together. The scene was included in the English-language theatrical and Blu-Ray version of the film, but is missing from the English DVD version.
Title Card: “Every epoch dreams its successor.” – Jules Michelet
Tima: I am who?
Tima: My father is… Kenichi.
Tima: I am an artificial human. A machine created to conquer the world and destroy it.
Tima: This is punishment for toying with robots.
Ban Syunsaku: Did you hear that, Duke Red? The superhuman you created is saying it doesn’t need us anymore.
Atlas: It’s our emotions. They vibrate, and all we can do is move forward within that amplitude. But without affirming them, we can’t survive.
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