A review by Mike Shea Movie Rating: ( * * * * · ) DVD Rating: ( * * * * * )
As I have said in earlier reviews, I am a huge fan of the untapped potential of animated film. I'm not talking about wacky dinosaur flicks or even fart-joke laden modern day fantasies. I'm talking about taking real movies with real plot lines and using the power of animation to remove the human actor element. For anyone who thinks you can't have real drama in animation, try reading Sin City by Frank Miller or watch Ghost in a Shell. There is a great potential for animated film but our society has a tendency to think all animated film should be kiddy movies. Lucky for us, the Japanese don't. Granted, they often go to the other extreme with their tentacle-sex hentai movies, but every so often we get something truly great. Metropolis is truly great.
While the story of Metropolis holds together very well, with strong characters and a very solid futuristic society, it is the artwork that makes this movie what it is. Every frame of this movie could take up hours as a single piece of artwork. The detail is so extreme that your eyes beg for more time to look around. From the enormous ziggurat that towers above the futuristic Metropolis to the seedy bars of the smoke filled second level (think of Blade Runner's rainy streets), no detail is glossed over. Each frame is a work of art.
As Titan AE showed, pretty images alone won't save good science fiction. You need a good story and good characters. Metropolis has both. The characters' dialog moves the plot along with an explanation of the very unique social and political structure of this futuristic society. The mature story takes no escapes, warranting the PG-13 rating. Just when Disney would be writing in a valiant escape from overwhelming odds, Metropolis takes the logical path without regards to the feeling of the audience. Anything else would be an insult.
The DVD of Metropolis does a lot of justice for the film. It has a 1.85 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture and two different Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks and a Japanese DTS track. You can listen to the movie either in English or Japanese with appropriate subtitles. I listened to the English dub, and would have missed half the movie had I been reading subtitles. This is a two-disc set, including a disc full of making of features and other documentaries.
Metropolis is a wonderful animated film. It has everything a good science fiction movie should and the animation pushes the envelope a step further than anything but possibly Final Fantasy. Unlike Final Fantasy, it is the story and characters that carry this movie. You could watch the movie with stick figures on index cards and it would still be entertaining. My hope is that movies like Metropolis will push talented directors to utilize the untapped resource of animation for more dramatic pictures than Burger-king sponsored Ice Age.