Metropolis | Animated Film Review


Directed by Rintarô

Set in a futuristic city dominated by a newly-constructed, immense “Ziggurat,” or Tower of Babel, Metropolis is a jazz-age sci-fi film based on the 1949 manga by Osamu Tezuka (of Astroboy fame). The detective protagonist must delve into the city’s robot-operated underground in search of a scientist who is trying to create the perfect artificial human as part of a power struggle for control of the city. The film deals with themes of class struggle and what it means to be human.

If this is ringing a bell, you’re not imagining things! In addition to Tezuka’s manga, Metropolis draws heavy inspiration from the 1927 German silent film of the same name by Fritz Lang. Metropolis (1927) has had a vast influence on film, defining in many ways our vision for what a “city of the future” might look like. Its influence has been felt throughout film and television from the Jetsons to Bladerunner. The film’s depiction of a robot has influenced depictions of other humanoid robots, including C3PO and the Cybermen of Doctor Who. The 2001 animated film has similar set dressing and plot points; both share the eponymous city featuring a “Tower of Babel,” an underground full of machines and an oppressed working class, and a scientist creating an artificial human. Both share, as well, the themes of humanity and class struggle.

The 2001 animation, though, is well worth watching on its own merits. The animation is hand-drawn and dynamic, with an iconic style that brings to mind Akira (1988). It uses a varied visual palette; the film can be dark and brooding at times, conforming with its film noir trappings. Then the sun comes out and the rusting and dilapidated—yet colorful— nature of the city shines through, keeping the mood of the film light and adventurous. The character designs are classically Osamu Tezuka. This is charming in the case of the main characters, but occasionally, as with the city’s head of police, can feel a bit dated and silly, but ultimately detracts little from the film. The jazz-filled soundtrack is excellent and does a great job of evoking the era of the movie.

Highly recommended for fans of classical-style animation and retrofuturism. 8/10

Parental Content: Cartoon violence. Injuries to humans are mild and not graphic. Injuries to robots are more brutal, often showing internal mechanisms, including robots heads and limbs being shot off.

Film Review by Austin M. (General Reference and Media)