Review of Metropolis (2001)

|Directed by Rintaro
|Screenplay by Katsuhiro Otomo
|Based on manga by Osamu Tezuka
|Manga based on Fritz Lang's 1927 movie of the same name

Metropolis pulls character animation from the 50s, background animation from the most high-tech computer technology, and music from American jazz. Its plot is taken from both a good sci-fi/fantasy book and a story of civil strife —- with a little Blade Runner thrown in for good measure. And it does it damn well.

Without even getting into the plot whatsoever, one must say that the audio and visuals were masterfully done. The animation style pulled straight from the 1950s manga was set on top of the jazz from the same time period. This amazing combination set with the state-of-the-art computer generated futuristic city of Metropolis.

The music that was chosen for the movie is nearly humorous, especially in the latter scenes. However, it does do the movie perfect justice, allowing the nearly ironic music to actually reinforce the scene, thus making each scene (especially the ending) twice as powerful. This helps reinforce English-speaking watchers with something powerful to listen to, as they will miss the Japanese-spoken dialog (there are subtitles, of course).

The city of Metropolis is filled with both real and false life. You see, humans have finally created artificial life that is just as powerful as their real living counterparts. This creates natural problems that have been predicted in movies since the dawn of the art form, such as the civil strife involved with creating a life form that can compete with humans socially, in the work force, and for rights. Humans start revolting against robots, and wish to deny their rights. However, robots already feel as if they do not have enough rights as it is. Robots are titled as second-class citizens simply because they cannot have feelings like humans do. This is questioned with several key robots during the movie, which are undoubtedly “special”. These robots are shown as full characters, and not just industrial tools. This factor alone makes this movie extremely different from previous movies, and creates a completely new impression of robots among its viewers.

Each movie has its flaws, however. In Metropolis, its flaws revolve around the concept itself. This movie isn’t your typical anime movie, and isn’t exactly easy for most people to grasp. The animation style is something interesting, but also is very foreign (about 50 years foreign, exactly) to viewers. The music, while really wonderful, is placed in the movie at odd times that many viewers might not understand. I must say that it took me a while to really sink in… about a few days, to be exact. But, that’s where the flaws really end.

An easily understandable plot separates Metropolis from other anime movies, and the other aspects of its design surely define it as a true masterpiece. I just can’t wait until this comes out on DVD in this country. However, it is only playing in two theatres in the United States - both in New York City (bigDATup!). Anyone not living in New York will probably see it first at home. I for one would be pleased to watch it spin in my DVD player!

GoogaGrade: A

Update: 02/07/02--Ereneta has informed me that Metropolis is now playing in Los Angeles (CA), New York (NY), Boston (MA), San Francisco (CA), Washington, D.C., Austin (TX), Seattle (WA), Chicago (IL), Toronto (ON), Vancouver (BC), and Honolulu (HI)
Thanks for the info, Ereneta!

Update: 03/24/02--Qousqous let me know that Metropolis is now playing in Portland (OR). By this time, I assume that it's in many more places than are listed here. The DVD's release date, btw, has been set back until April 23rd in the US. I assume that this is due to the success in the theaters.

Update: 05/02/02--Today I bought the movie on DVD, as it came out last Tuesday. I must comment on the true lack of good English voice-overs. I do not with upon my worst enemies the fate of watching Metropolis with the provided English voice-overs. They are horrid, and many feel they actually make the movie feel as if it is progressing slower. Stick with the Japanese voices w/ English subs, I say.

Update: 06/27/02--mkb has announced that Metropolis is currently all over French theatres.