Retro Review: Metropolis

In the 1940’s animation visionary Osamu Tezuka wrote a little graphic novel that brought about the dawn of a new era in animation and comics. That graphic novel is “Metropolis” and it inspired legions of cartoon creators. Tezuka has been dubbed the godfather of “anime” and “manga” and still influences animators and comic enthusiasts today.

Tezuka’s vision of the future dwells on a theory of how man and machine will co-exist in our future. In his novel “Metropolis”, young Kenichi journeys to a giant “metropolis” with his uncle to question a scientist by the name of Laughton.

Unbeknownst to Kenichi and his uncle, Laughton is building a secret weapon for Duke Red, leader of the Metropolis. His weapon is for world domination and he hopes that Laughton’s robotic creation will have no feeling and govern the world justly. Duke Red’s passion and devotion to the Laughton project displeases his adopted son, Rock.

Rock plans on disrupting Laughton’s project and bringing his father’s attention back to him. Rock also believes that his father should sit upon the world “throne” not a machine.

The struggle between Rock, Kenichi, Duke Red and Laughton’s creation Tima is the main focus of the story and dictates a little about how their futuristic world emulates our own.

“Metropolis” is a most beautiful piece of animation as it flows and carves out a giant all encompassing city. This city is reminiscent of films like “Akira”, “Blade Runner” and “Ghost in the Shell”.

The sub-plots involving a robotic rebellion reminded me a lot of the old Russ Manning serial called “Magnus: Robot Fighter” and of course “Blade Runner” where renegade robots fight for independence.

It truly is amazing how many influences must have spawned from this project since it does date back to the 1940s.

The problem with “Metropolis” was the print itself that I watched. The subtitles were huge and often filled a lot of the screen. That was when you could read them, as they would often be absorbed by the film’s rich background.

It really is a shame since the film itself is amazing to look at when you aren’t distracted by those subtitles.

This film could have been enjoyed by lots of people if it would have had incorporated an English soundtrack and a little more attention was paid to its release. I can’t wait to find the film on DVD. With an English track it will be inspiring to enjoy the scope and majesty of the film without being sidetracked.

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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