Saturday, 14 January 2017

Metropolis (2001)

“Spectacular Anime”

With only the loosest connection to the Fritz Lang 1927 original, this rather spectacular-looking anime based on Osamu Tezuka’s 1949 manga comes to Blu-ray in steelbook format (the dual format release is coming a bit later on) courtesy of Eureka.

We’re in one of those massive futuristic cities that you cannot help feel Godzilla would love to smash to bits with some of his friends if he had the chance. Duke Red has just unveiled his new building, a ziggurat that has great big lasers in the top floor, and a throne for whoever is presumably meant to control them, but who is it to be?

The answer lies in the bowels of Metropolis, where mad scientist Dr Laughton has been put to work by Duke Red creating a robot daughter for him called Tima. Duke Red has special plans for Tima, but he reckons without a private investigator and his son who have been employed to find Laughton, and Red’s own adopted son Rock, who hates robots with a vengeance and shoots any that he can. The lab gets destroyed and Tima ends up on the run, with everyone in hot pursuit. But what will happen if / when she gets to sit on that throne?

The background art in METROPOLIS is stunning. You could quite easily sit through the entire film ignoring the plot and characters and treat it as a glorious picture book of high definition art. For no other reason than this I found myself glued to the screen.

The animated characters are a bit different, and how you react to the way they are designed will probably influence how much you like this. Rock is presumably intended to be a cool villain but he looks about six years old. Most character designs seem to expand as you go south, with recurrent ‘Popeye’ syndrome in people’s legs and calves that are wholly out of proportion to the rest of their bodies. It’s not enough to spoil the film but if you’re not that familiar with this kind of thing (the last time I saw this sort of animation was probably Battle of the Planets back in 1978) then it’s a bit distracting.

Eureka’s Blu-ray comes with both Japanese and English dialogue options, both in either stereo or 5.1. The 5.1 mix is excellent, with explosions and gunfire echoing all around. There are three (!) English subtitle track options - US original, original Japanese translation, and newly commissioned subtitles. You also get a making of, interviews with the film’s creators, multi-angle animation comparisons, and a trailer. 
         When it was released, Roger Ebert apparently called METROPOLIS the best animated film he had ever seen. I can easily see where he was coming from. It has dated a tiny bit, but there’s still nothing quite like this out there. If you’re new to anime, this is a good place to start. Fans will be getting this anyway. 

METROPOLIS is out as a Blu-ray steelbook from Eureka on Monday 16th January 2017. The dual format DVD & Blu-ray release is out on 13th March 2017

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