Cinepub


Review: Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis by Jamie
10/03/2009, 7:08 pm
Filed under: Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Anime and I have a long, complicated past. There have been times when I have been quite a fan and times when I don’t care for it all that much. Generally, the older I get, the more I seem to dislike the genre. I can still respect the classics but as for sitting down and watching an anime series, well that’s pretty much out of the question these days. But why? What is it that causes this ever growing dislike for Japanese animation? Well, I guess the most obvious thing that turns me against it is the pacing. It seems to me as though anime can go for a very long time without much happening. Now, when something actiony does happen it’s generally very well done but for some reason, down time in an anime seems to last a life time and the juxtaposition between the two is often quite jarring. Hell, this even affects such greats as Akira. Perhaps it’s not so much a criticism of the genre, maybe it’s my fault. Maybe not.

Another favourite to pick on when it comes to anime is the voice acting, but I’m not going to dwell on this too much. In my opinion it’s pretty much like anything else, you get the good and the bad. There is the extra problem of course of English voice actors having to cram or elongate a sentence to fit it into a characters open mouth which can sometimes lead to a somewhat stilted performance, especially with the insertion of English lines which seem to be irrelevant or overstate a point just because a characters mouth is moving, but I think you’ve got to cut them some slack there.

Sometimes however, it just gets it right, such as in this 2001 film inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s manga, Metropolis, a manga which I have never read. The central character of it is apparently based on a still from the 1927 movie of the same name, a movie which I have also not seen. This should be interesting. Spoilers ahead, bitches. Seriously, I can’t review this film with talking about, perhaps even showing the ending. It’s splendiferous.

Set in Metropolis, which looks like a 1930s American city but with robots and zeppelins, at a time when there is apparently conflict between robots and their human masters. Robots, it seems have progressed to a stage where there artificial intelligence is practically comparable to humans but they lack the same rights as humans, are forbidden to travel between the four zones that Metropolis is divided into and are forbidden from taking on human names.

The films opens with a city-wide celebration because the Ziggurat has been completed. Sweet, I’ve been looking forward to Ziggurat completion for some time! What? What’s the Ziggurat, you ask? Well, its… Well it’s not explained yet. But it’s complete so shut the fuck up and drink! Woo! Celebrate! The party is soon crashed, however, by a robot protestor who has left his assigned zone and, as such, is gunned down by the apparently twelve years old antagonist of the picture, Rock. We soon find out that Rock is a Marduk, an organisation designed to protect the citizens of Metropolis from law-breaking ’bots. He’s also the adopted son of Duke Red (though Duke really seems to hate the kid), the most influential citizen in all of Metropolis, designer of the Ziggurat and dude who really, really misses his dead daughter. So much so that he has commissioned a robot replica to be built.

Meanwhile, a Japanese detective by the name of Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi arrive in Metropolis on the trail of alleged human organ trafficker Dr. Laughton, who just so happens to be the man hired by Duke Red to build his new robot daughter. The police are far to busy trying to control all the hubbub surrounding the Ziggurat celebrations so Shunsaku is assigned a robot detective to help find the doctor. He’s kinda like Inspector Gadget but without the personality. Oh, and he doesn’t screw up all the time. Not entirely sure he has gadgets either. Hmm, Ok so he’s not like Inspector Gadget, he’s just a robot detective.

Anyway, the three head into Zone 1, the zone beneath the city where, at that very moment, Duke Red is visiting Laughton in order to check up on his ‘bot-daughters progress. Rock watches from above as Duke seems to fawn over the incomplete robot and, deciding when the robot is finished his father will never have time for him again, decides to shoot Laughton. The bad doc’s lab explodes, activating and apparently finishing the robot, Tima, and the subsequent fire attracts the attention of Shunsaku, Kenichi and Inspector Not-Gadget which leads to Kenichi rescuing Tima from the fire but also getting separated from his uncle and the boring, gadgetless detective. During their time together alone, Kenichi teaches Tima the basic concepts of humanity and such, as well as meeting a chirping recycle-bot.

Meanwhile, Duke Red tries out the Ziggurat which it turns out to be a sun-spot causing super weapon, the testing of which causes some robots on the surface of Metropolis to go bat-shit crazy. This of coure means that the Marduks have to shoot the shit out of them. Since the Ziggurat was tested without permission and because it seems as though the Ziggurat will massively change the political scope of the city, the mayor and the president decide it is time to arrest Duke Red.

As his uncle and Inspector Boredom work on the hunch that Rock killed Laughton, Kenichi and Tima are being hunted by Rock. They manage to evade him and encounter Atlas, the leader of an anti-robot movement made up largely of workers who have lost their jobs to the increasing mechanisation of the city. When their rations are put on hold during the Ziggurat celebration, they decide to start a revolution beginning with killing off Mr. Gadgetless, the robot detective helping Shunsaku. The president and the mayor are assassinated and Duke Red takes control, the military squashing the rebellion and eventually Tima falls into Duke Red’s hands and it turns out she isn’t just a replacement daughter. She is destined to sit on the throne of the Ziggurat and become the weapon’s control device.

Suddenly Rock shoots Tima, causing a wound which makes her realise her own artificial nature and angers her enough that she joins with the Ziggurat, using it for her own desire to begin a world-wide robot revolution and orders the annihilation of the human race. The robots attack mankind until Kenichi manages to separate Tima from her throne, trying to help her regain all he had taught her about being human even as she tries to kill him. Meanwhile the robots attempt to kill Duke Red. In an effort to save his father, Rock pushes the button to activate the weapon but instead causes it to overload, leading to this scene:

Metropolis I can’t stop loving you
Uploaded by Marceau84

Fuck yeah, I love this scene. It’s reminiscent of the ending of Dr. Strangelove, a touching song playing over the scene of total devestation. Hell yeahs. Anyway, it seems as though Kenichi finally reminds Tima that she once believed herself to be human and what that meant but as she realises this she falls to her apparent death.

The next morning Kenichi helps the robot casualties whilst searching for Tima, finding various parts of her. He then joins his uncle in evacuating Metropolis with humans and robots in a giant plan-like thing. The final shot, however, is of a radio playing music. When it finishes, Tima’s voice can be heard coming across it saying “Who Am I?” suggesting that if her thoughts are still being broadcast then she may be, for want of a better word, alive.

So there you have it. Metropolis. A truly wonderful film with a wonderful ending. The art is crisp, clean and melded perfectly with CGI. The characters seem to be faithful to, I can’t say the manga because I’ve never read it, but Osamu Tezuka’s style. I don’t find the pacing to be a major issue in it like I do in many, many anime films and, though there are a few awkward dialogue moments there aren’t nearly enough to detract from the overall greatness of this movie and if you do find it to distracting, the DVD version comes with the original Japanese and subtitles. Lovely Jubbly.

The film also has an amazing soundtrack. Not only does it feature Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” during that climactic scene, it also has some fantastic Jazz throughout. And who doesn’t love robots and jazz? Well probably that wanker robot detective without any gadgets but everyone else loves them. Awesome.

So now that I’ve finally started writing shit again, come back tomorrow for something else. Maybe a review of Watchmen, maybe another Top 10 list. Maybe something completely different. Who knows? I haven’t decided yet. Laterz.

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