When I first bought (impulsively) and watched Metropolis for the first time quite a few years ago, I remember disliking it quite a bit. All these years later, I finally decided to give it another shot. It's based on a Manga that's based on the original dystopian flick of the same name from the 1920s. It's a futuristic tale where robots and humans live together, but not in harmony. The massive city of Metropolis has finally built their Ziggurat, a modern Tower of Babel. But there are many levels of the city: the surface level (the 'good part of town', so to speak), area 1 (basic working class and slums level), area 2 (factories), and area 3 (sewage). But now that this Ziggurat, which allows the user to distort sunspots on the surface of the sun to therefore cause radiation to cause all robots to malfunction, has been built, it needs somebody to constantly run it. Duke Red, head of a corrupt side of the government, has Dr. Loughton create the perfect robot (a human-looking android, basically) named Tima so that she can be said tool. Meanwhile, a Japanese detective and his nephew, Kenichi, come into town to arrest Dr. Loughton for illegal operations. But Duke Red's apparently adopted son and right-hand assassin, Rock, strongly loathes robots and believes his ‘father' should sit on the throne of the Ziggurat, so he attempts to destroy Tima. However, he fails, and Kenichi ends up traveling through the lower areas with Tima while trying to stay alive as Rock continually tries to kill them.

     Now, while I still don't think this movie is a masterpiece, I appreciated it a lot more than I remember doing the first time. The animation is done very well (though a bit too cartoonish, if that makes sense, with the overly large noses on some characters). Though the action of the movie looks great and stylish, especially with anything Rock does. The music, I thought, was very fitting. Most of it falls somewhere in the vicinity of the 1920-1950s, and at least half of it is jazzy. The song during the climax scene was done very well and works really nicely with all the destruction and such.

     The problem with the movie rests with the characters and the plot. I'll start with the characters: For being around each other so much, they barely interact. And when they do, it's usually Tima repeating ‘Kenichi' over and over again. There's no character development or connection. I really don't feel anything for any of the characters. It's just kind of like... they're there.

     As for the plot, it really feels like there was a lot missing. The movie could have been longer than it was, really (which might have helped with character development). For instance, Kenichi and Tima start off together in area 3 with this cleaning robot. The next thing we know, they're leaving area 3, and they've nicknamed the robot ‘fifi' for no apparent reason. And they get this big attachment to the robot, yet there wasn't shown enough interaction for it to really show us. Similarly, a little bit later, Kenichi and Tima come across a group of resistance fighters. But we aren't shown them actually meeting or introducing each other. There's about two or three minutes talking about how they want to overthrow the government... and the next thing we know, we're seeing a full-out coup d'etat. There were no forms of transitions anywhere in there. Nothing. It felt like there was 30 minutes of the movie just missing, like there should be a whole section of the movie with Tima and Kenichi hanging out and talking with the resistance guys. And there are other scenes and moments just like those throughout the movie.

     Not to mention that the case the detective dude is trying to solve isn't a mystery to the viewers, as we saw everything that happened. Detective mysteries are only effective if both the detective and the audience are equally in the dark and have to figure it out simultaneously. Otherwise, it's boring and silly.

     So really, if you're a fan of anime or sci-fi (such as Blade Runner), watch this one, if anything, for the animation style, the atmosphere, and the music. The story itself isn't too bad, but there's a lot lacking. A bit more length could have helped this issue, as well as character development and such. The good and the bad really kind of cancel each other out, for the most part. And although I'd like to give it one notch higher, I'm afraid the whole movie just doesn't cut it enough to grant it that score.

Reviewed by: Nick
5 Comment(s)
Shea said...
I've seen this a couple times on the shelf. I go through anime fazes farely often. Spawn, Ninja Scroll, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in a Shell, blah blah blah...

When I go through these fazes this one is always sitting on the shelf...watching...staring...wanting me to take it. I never have (and probably never will).

My opinion with Anime is that you either get something great, something wack, or something god awful. This one always touched me as not in the great category.

Cool to read about it though and see that the movie on the shelf actually caught someone in the web... if not just to warn me not to bother ;)
Nick said...
Shea: If you ever go into one of these phases in the near future, and get into the mood to watch a short series over a movie, check out 'Death Note' and/or 'Elfen Lied'. Those are two of the greatest short series animes in recent years, and I think they'd be right up your alley. If you're up for more of the hardcore action/gore side, check out Elfen Lied. If you're up for amazing creativity and mind games, check out Death Note. Elfen Lied is shorter than Death Note in episodes (it's like... 13 to 35 or something like that... but each episode is only roughly 20 something minutes anyway).

On the movie spectrum... I'm sure by now you've checked out the Miyazaki films such as Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke. If not, I recommend Miyazaki (specifically Spirited Away).

Oh, and as always, subtitles over dubbing... but I doubt you need to be reminded of that.

As for this movie though... it really isn't AWFUL... it had a lot of potential and just falls short.
Adam said...
hahaha, when i saw these comments in my inbox, I thought this review was for the '20s Fritz Lang movie - ha.

Haven't seen this, but have heard a lot about it - I love Ninja Scroll by the way, and Vampire Hunter D.

But really, the 1927 Metropolis can get outta space and in yo face.
Nick said...
Adam: lol... close. It's related, but not the same.
* (asterisk) said...
Yeah, I was hoping for a review of the Lang classic too. Don't care for animation.