So I had this random urge to watch Metropolis over the weekend, and ended up tracking it down online. I’d only ever seen it once before, and I didn’t much remember my experience with it back then. I should have probably taken that as a hint to avoid watching it again, but you know me and my curiosity, I just couldn’t let it go. I mean have you seen the cover? It’s gorgeous, and it’s from the patron saint of manga, Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy.
Here’s the synopsis:
A future society, where humans and robots co-exist. Amidst the chaos created by anti-robot factions, detective Shunsaku Ban and his sidekick Ken-ichi are searching for rebel scientist Dr. Laughton, to arrest him and seize his latest creation, a beautiful young girl named Tima. When they locate them, Shunsaku soon realizes that the eccentric scientist is protected by a powerful man and his fierce desire to reclaim a tragic figure from his past and therefore is beyond their reach.
Do all anime movies have a lengthy synopsis to go with them?
Anyway, Osamu Tezuka’s art style is as easily recognizable as any classic Disney movie, partially because he drew inspiration from Disney’s work during its early days. His name is well known, and his work is legendary. It would be like ignoring the possibility of a new Miyazaki movie. It’s not just a name though. Metropolis was properly funded and advertised. It had the makings of what could have possibly been a classic….
But upon actually watching it, I can see why anime feature films of today don’t get much attention, if Metropolis was supposed to be the catalyst that started it all.
Now before I get into the flaws of it, of which there are many, I feel like I have to tell you the good things first. I have a bad habit of leading with the bad, and giving these movies a really bad rep before telling you “but I actually enjoyed these things about it!” Like I did with Mary and The Witch’s flower. I genuinely did appreciate it, but I spent so much of my blog telling its flaws, that I forgot to highlight what I loved about it, and my obsession with its little quirks and design has only grown since then.
Metropolis had a similar, but not as grand of an effect on me. It is animated beautifully. The structure of the many levels, ins and outs of Metropolis as a city, are shown through its vibrant colors, and some of its highly detailed and contrasting environments from scene to scene. You could probably screen capture at just about any point, and find yourself with a kickass wallpaper.
The way other things are portrayed is amazing as well, such as the first scene we see with Rock. The shot from his gun, the way his hair is animated from the kickback… It’s all really well done, and I can’t speak higher praise of how amazing it looks, coupled with its damned near perfect soundtrack. The music is probably my favorite part about this movie. The way it was used to execute certain scenes was clever, and gave you a sense of completion. Such as the scene with Dr. Laughten’s lab on fire, where all the robots come to put it out. They come in, team up to build this bigger “megazord” version of themselves, and the hose connects itself, all the while this frantic, energetic and very catchy song plays in the background. It was actually fun to watch… and that is something I typically don’t say outside of Disney and Pixar movies.
Perfect looking package aside, there were a few moments where it felt there was just a little TOO much detail crammed onto the screen. The CG effects were pretty cool mostly, but towards the end it just felt a little too abstract for me. I’m talking about the big reveal with Tima’s supposed purpose, which we will get to. The floor is essentially made up of a bunch of what looks like holes and open ended pipes sticking up from… I’m not sure where… and the walls are done the same way. It was a pretty cool aesthetic, but…. It kind of took me out of the movie a bit as I wondered which architect or interior designer would in their right mind, design something so impractical? How can you even walk on such an uneven floor? It just didn’t make any sense to me. And the way that this scene was constructed, with its usage of color and semi realism, was the exact opposite of the characters animated over it. It bothered me, and it was almost uncomfortable to watch.
I suppose that scene would be a good analogy for the movie in its entirety though. By this I mean that it was trying to get too much done in such a short amount of time. I would have loved to have seen this done as a mini series, and I know I say this a lot, but this is a movie that sincerely needs it. There are about 5 or 6 stories happening at the same time, and it just doesn’t work as well as you’d like it to. It’s very much possible to make it work, but it would take a lot of re-writing and shifting around from scene to scene to make it one cohesive plot. We have Ken-ichic and Tima, Ken-ichi and his neglectful uncle Ban, we have Ban and his detective duties, we have Rock and his daddy issues, Duke Red and his need to take over the world coupled with the love of his dead daughter, the corrupt government leaders, the rogue robots, the poor faction of the city lead by Aladdi—I mean… Atlas (voiced by Brad Kane), the humans versus robots dynamic- apart from their own separate issues, the revolution… if you can call it that…. the underside of said revolution, and the whole… Ziggurat thing. All painted by obvious expositional dialogue that sounds as unnatural as possible in the flow of regular conversation.
Does it sound like a lot?
It IS a lot.
And it’s crammed into one hour and 53 minutes, even though it felt like two and a half hours. At some points there was so much happening at the same time, and the transitioning from scene to scene was so jarring, and poorly executed that it just… became hard to follow. I get the overall scope of it, don’t get me wrong, but again, why did they try to cram so much into one movie? What was the end goal? What was the message? What was the real point? And can the Mardukes handle a rogue robot situation without blowing up half of an entire city block, and injuring half the people they’re supposedly trying to save? Why are they gunning them down instead of just taking them back to their levels? It doesn’t make sense to me.
I know that this movie is based on a manga that tezuka created long before this movie’s release. I would genuinely like to read it just to see if there’s any real depth to it in comparison to what we got with this movie.
Especially when there seem to be entire scenes missing with explanations that might have actually helped the flow a bit more. Like how did Fifi – my favorite thing about this movie – find Ken-Ichi and Tima? What is the actual point of Tima if Duke Red can control the Ziggurat without her? How the hell did anyone survive that huge collapse at the end, let alone Ken-Ichi who was near the top of it? And where the hell are his parents? Is nobody going to question why Ban came home sans nephew?
No movie is perfect. My favorite movies have their own HUGE flaws, and as I say at the end of every recording, I’m no professional critic. I didn’t study film, I’m just a bit obsessed with animation. So from this point of view, I can say that it’s a beautiful film, with an amazing soundtrack, and with an eloquent design to it. But past this, the plot needs a lot of work. All of its supposed WOW moments get lost in that convoluted timeline they called a story. There were some things that should have been pushed to the background, such as the anti-robot story, the revolution, and the corrupt government. We could have done without those things for the sake of focusing more on Tima and Duke Red.
As for a rating if you’d like one, it’s worth watching for the curiosity. But if you’re looking for something with depth, and an intriguing plot line… this isn’t it. Though it is a fun movie, it’s not a hard hitting one, even though it should be.