Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Review: Metropolis (2002)

Metropolis (2002)is a Japanese animation film adapted from the 1949 manga (Japanese comic book) of the legendary anime artist, Osamu Tezuka, and director, Rin Tao, about the apocalyptic collapse of the futuristic city of Metropolis. Machines and humans live in very segregated worlds. Revolution is imminent in the city as tensions continue to worsen. This movie is also based on the original 1927 German screenplay by Fritz Lang with the same title.

Private detective, Shunsaku Ban, and his nephew, Kenichi, enter the city to find the missing doctor, Dr. Laughton. With the assistance of a detective android, they cover different zones within the city (Metropolis is built on different zones, in which certain zones are unavailable to the public and certain androids). The doctor was commissioned under the ruler of Metropolis to construct a superhuman android that will control all androids and machines from the Ziggurat. When they find Dr. Laughton, his hidden lab was also destroyed in a mysterious fire. Who would have murdered the doctor?

The ruler of Metropolis, Duke Red, initially asked Dr. Laughton to create the android as heir to the throne in the Ziggurat. Duke Red treats this android (whose name is Tima) like his own long-lost daughter. His foster son, Rock, despises and ridicules androids. Kenichi discovers Tima, and they flee the Rock’s rage through underground tunnels, sewage waste, and towering skyscrapers. On their journey, the two meet many friends who assist them in their escape. Unfortunately, Kenichi falls in love with Tima, who seems so innocent despite being the ultimate super-machine.

What happens to the blossoming friendship between Kenichi and Tima? Is it her destiny to become more human-like or inherit the most powerful throne the world has ever seen? Can humans and androids co-exist together peacefully? Only you can find out by watching this movie. The ending will surprise - and delight - any viewer.

This was an amazing and beautiful film. After renting this video, I immediately bought it on DVD (109 minutes). The two-disc DVD collection is very worthwhile primarily for teenagers and adults. The music, combined with classical and New Orleans-style jazz, makes the Tezuka’s 1940s-Disney-like characters function well with the futuristic background. I saw this film in ‘Japanese with English subtitles’ and ‘English dubbed’ version. Although the Japanese version was longer with an introduction, both versions did very well in story execution. I preferred the English dubbed simply because the voices seemed more accurate with the characters’ personalities.

Even people who have limited knowledge of Japanese animation will love this movie because of its Western-style narration and fantastic (2-D and 3-D CGI) artwork. I stared in awe at the magnificence and beauty of the artwork throughout the movie. It would make Fritz Lang very proud because this version marked the 75th anniversary of the German silent film. At its premiere, this blockbuster was groundbreaking in which it explored the darker side of humanity where there was a growing social crisis between workers and owners in a futuristic, capitalist society. It influenced a new genre of science fiction cinema such as cyberpunk. Critics during this period worried that industrialization was eroding social, artistic and cultural traditions in the pursuit of power and greed. Human lives were expendable in a mass production society.

The audience may recognize the Christian biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The Ziggurat represents the Tower of Babel and how mankind tries to reach heaven by building the tallest structure into the sky. God demolished the tower with His wrath and created language confusion among the people. This story influences the idea of the Ziggurat structure: mankind tries to play God in the world with androids as the supreme rulers. This film captures humans’ fears and anxieties when Tezuka created this manga: people thought that (with two global wars and millions of deaths) it was almost the end of the world during the 1930s and 1940s.

The two theme songs, Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and the jazzy and talented Japanese singer, Minako “Mooki” Obata’s “There'll Never Be Goodbye” (sung in English), are excellent and memorable. I provided the lyrics to the ending theme below. I highly recommend this film (including the 1927 original version).

This film is available to rent and buy on DVD.



"I Can't Stop Loving You" by Ray Charles



"There'll Never Be Good-Bye" by Minako "mooki" Obata

Lyrics to There'll Never Be Good-bye by Minako "mooki" Obata

Burning orange light slowly melt into the sky
Sparkles in your eyes aglow
Cold and heartless walls and never ending sighs
When you held me close, were gone

I'd have never known if you had never shown
Someday I'd have wings to fly
But who'd ever dream these arms were meant to break
So I must go
Before you see me fall

I recall sweet and enchanted days
Your smile chased the clouds away
All fragments of our memory survive
Shining in the moonless night

Life time is a match
A momentary flash
Yet this forever remains
You are in my heart
Until my heart's not mine
So remember
This never is Good-bye

I recall sweet and enchanted days
Your smile chased the clouds away
All fragments of our memory survive
Shining in the moonless night

Stay close to my soul
Like you're close to my hands
Darling if I fade away
You are in my heart
Until my heart's not mine
But I must go
Before you see me fall

So remember
This never is Good-bye

Please remember
There'll never be Good-bye


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