Not to be confused with the legendary 1920s Black &
White movie of the same name, this 2001 movie had "future anime classic"
written all over it upon its release. First, much was made of the fact
that it is based upon early work by Osamu Tezuka, one of Japan's
pioneering manga (comic) artists and boasts a screenplay by
Katsuhiro Otomo of Akira
fame. Rintaro, a veteran in the field who also directed
the recent X, directed it.
Second, the extensive use of computer-generated graphics
was unprecedented in any Japanese animated movie that went before it.
didn't disappoint: it had a feel all of
its own, blending traditional anime figures against a spectacular city
background. For architectural fetishists who got off on movies like
Runner, The Crow, Dark City and the original
Metropolis, this movie didn't
disappoint. Even though it was extensively released on DVD and video few people actually had the chance to see
it on the big screen as it is meant to be seen . . .
Metropolis is simply too big for home theatre. Too
many details are simply too diminished and get lost on the smaller TV
screen. Though I am seldom in favor of pan 'n' scan releases ? the
practice by which edges of the movie's image is cut off at the edges so
that it fits your entire TV screen ? Metropolis presents a case for it.
Too often characters are simply dwarfed by their surroundings and it lacks
intimacy since one would like to take in all the details.
However, beware: do not be fooled by
the kiddy look
of the characters, this is not a movie for children. When it first
appeared at our local video shop, it was first shelved along with the
other children's movies. Later on, I however noticed that it had been
moved to the main movies section with a sticker pronouncing: "Not Suitable
for Children." Who could have thought? Animation for adults? Those wily
Orientals I tell ya . . . (I can imagine someone having rented the move
for their little sprouts and then noticing all the violence and adult
themes in it and complaining to the shop owner.)
THE DISCS: These are the Region 2 DVD discs available
in Europe, Middle East & Japan only. And South Africa of course. The first
disc contains the movie along with some trailers for
Final Fantasy and a
straight-to-video movie made out of putting together several episodes of
the computer-generated TV series based on Starship Troopers.
trailer for Metropolis itself of course.
The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio.
Image is terrific and so is sound. After receiving a review copy of
Metropolis on VCD, I decided to upgrade to the DVDs when I got the chance.
an obvious improvement over the VCDs, but it's actually amazing just how
resilient VCDs are: the image isn't all that much sharper really.
Here's my main complaint though: it would have been
nice if the movie featured a pan 'n' scan version as well ? like the
Collector's Edition of Men in Black (Region 1) discs do.
Let's face up to
it: viewers should be given the choice between widescreen and pan 'n'
scan. Lately I find that one has no choice in the matter: I had to endure
a bad pan 'n' scan DVD of Enigma recently as well as
Prophecies presented in the wrong aspect rations. Sure, these are South
African-produced discs, but I have a suspicion that pan 'n' scan is going
to win the day I'm afraid. Cinematic ignoramuses insist on it and recently
I've read that the largest video shop franchise in the United States
(Blockbusters) only stock pan 'n' scan DVDs now (e-mail me if this isn't
the case) .
This is sad: if I wanted to watch sadly butchered
movies I'd rent VHS tapes, and the DVD format would be useless. Come on,
all you producers out there: with the artificially inflated prices of
DVDs, bringing out double disc DVD sets wouldn't cut that deeply into your
profits and ensure the format's goodwill amongst both the general movie
public as well as movie geeks.
Why I mention this, is because the second disc is a
complete waste of space to be honest. The so-called special features on
them are minimal. I am sure that a decent pan 'n' scan version of the
movie could have been fitted in as well. Instead all we have is some art
work, a half-an-hour Japanese ?documentary? (presented in full-screen mode
with English subtitles) of the sort in which the people involved in the
film's making tells what a good time they had making it and little else.
After a while, this sort of circle wank gets tiring.
Here is a movie that begs for some depth: it is based
on a manga (comic book) written shortly after WWII, which in turn is
inspired by the 190s Fritz Lang movie. How do the three differ? What is
each trying to tell us? Instead, we are told by writer
Katsuhiro Otomo that
his favorite character is one he especially created for the movie that
didn't feature at all in the original comics. Why? He doesn't say.
At least we were spared a bunch of computer geeks
explaining how the computer generated bits were done (one can see how they
are blended together in two scenes though). These featurettes especially
made for DVD releases can be quite dull. Especially the newer releases -
I'm thinking here of ones I saw of The Mummy and
Jurassic Park III - where
special effects are mostly done with computers usually consists of people
showing stuff on, well, computers. I get enough of that at work. Give me
the days of when models were extensively used and special effects depended
of everyday ingenuity. As example, check out the Superman
- The Movie DVD
for info on how the exploding planet of Krypton was actually a tennis ball
they set afire!
Older movies also free its stars and creative people
from constraints. When the movie is being released, saying something
slightly negative about your fellow stars or whoever will have that
studio's marketing department fall upon you like a ton of bricks. Years
later the truth comes out: how Marlon Brando in the first
didn't bother learning his lines and they scribbled it down instead and
stuck notes all over the place for him to read it!
WORTH IT? The
movie's great but the extra features
RECOMMENDATION: If you can say ?my DVD anime collection? without
blanching, then this is one worth adding to your collection. Otherwise,
this is definitely worth a rental then.