Reviews: Metropolis

Tezuka was Probably Right

Osamu Tezuka stated that he wished for his early sci-fi manga, Metropolis to not be adapted into anime, as it just wouldn't work as is. An unbiased reading gives some insight why; its a story that starts off too slow and ends up rushed in the end, shoehorning in a final conflict and last minute aesop of mankind's progression. Director Rintaro felt he could make good on the late Tezuka's visions of the future though, so he and Katsuhiro Otomo adapted Metropolis into an animated feature.

A celebration is being held in the futuristic city of Metropolis to commemorate the opening of a massive tower named "Zigguraut". Enter Detective Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi, on the trail of mad scientist Dr. Laughton, whose under contract of prominent citizen Duke Red to construct the perfect human being. After an unfortunate night with the Duke's rogue son, the two are seperated, as must fend off facist enforcers and dangerous revolutionaries to find each other.

The is the film's primary problem; instead of retelling the manga's plot in a better paced and more focused manner, it tries to cram in more. Characters (expies of Tezuka's other works) are introduced frequently, bringing their own plots that are hastily resolved just a few scenes later. This takes time away from the main characters' much needed development, leaving the film's "emotional" finale reliant on a few prior scenes of akward dialogue and a Ray Charles song to sell it.

For narrative purposes, the movie alternates between beautiful and ugly visuals, going from detailed CGI constructs, to gritty clumps that are hard to figure out on a normal TV. While the film loves to pan out to show off its elaborate sets, it often making it difficult to to figure out what's going on and where. The character's are drawn in Tezuka's cartoony style, but are oddly enough hyper-realized during close ups, creating several Uncanny Valley moments.

Music wise, the movie settles on jazz, giving us a festive main theme and.... 10 variations of it. No, really. There's very little diversity in the music as a result, and few tracks really stand out.

The film ironically follows through story of the ill-fated Zigguraut. It's a beautiful looking film that aims too high, gets too full of itself and ultimately comes crashing down in the end.