First there was the classic 1927 silent film called Metropolis, pitting the wealthy city dwellers against the poor people below. Next there was the famous comic created by Osamu Tezuka, the originator of anime. Finally in 2001 came Metropolis, directed by Rintaru.

From the opening sequence of golden fireworks shimmering over an art-deco cityscape, you know you're in for a graphic achievement. The movie is extremely clear about the difference between sharp-edged technology and architecutre and the soft, round, big-eyed humans.

This is a movie about contrasts in many ways, and the graphics are just the start. You have the human workers both cared for by and upset with the very-useful robots. In some ways the robots do all necessary chores, but on the other hand humans feel they've been put out of work.

Next, you have the rich vs the poor. The humans up above have the life of art deco, elegance and ease, with a great, jazz-tune-filled soundtrack. Down below, the seedy locations are full of grime, dirt and despair.

In the midst of all of this comes a very human tale of love and hate. Rock is the adopted son of Duke Red, head of the Marduk faction. Duke Red has built a Ziggarut, or massive skyscraper, to hold a large weapon and control the world. They even explicitly compare the Ziggarut to the Tower of Babylon, which the Gods destroyed.

All Rock wants is the Duke's love, and dutifully does his job of killing out-of-control robots. Duke doesn't want the love of this orphan boy. Instead, he pines for his long-dead daughter. He has a criminal doctor create a cyborg version of his young daughter. Furiously jealous, Rock destroys the factory and kills the doctor.

Luckily, a PI was hunting down the doctor. The PI, a classic 30s detective a la Philip Marlowe, brings along his nephew, Kenichi, to help out. Kenichi hooks up with the cyborg, Tema. And while Rock tries to kill them, the Revolutionaries help out the young duo, and class warfare begins.

The movie has vaulting ambitions and a lot of ground to cover. There are a lot of cliches floating around, like "Pretty soon they won't need humans any more" from the disgruntled lower class and "No mechanical puppet is going to steal my father's heart" from Rock. There are humans killing other humans without a second though, and robots sacrificing their lives nobly while humans cry out in sadness. "Humans are inferior creatures, confused by love and morality." Tema gets shot in the heart, and looks sadly at the hole that should have held her soul and life.

It's an ambitious experiment, and on many levels it will serve as a model and inspiration for years to come. But the characters are extremely one-dimensional; none have any depth. The plot and dialogue was cobbled together from many disparate ideas, and the seams show. It aimed to be a stellar work of art, and even with its flaws, it still will inspire artists for years to come.


Images from Metropolis
Revolutionary Picture
Mayor Picture
Detective Picture
Slum Picture
City Picture
City Picture
Tema in Room Picture
Tema Picture

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