Synopsis: Detective Shunsaku Ban, along with his nephew Kenichi, goes off to the magnificent city of Metropolis in order to arrest the mad scientist Dr. Laughton. Unknown to the two, Dr. Laughton had been developing a super android named Tima for Metropolis' resident big shot Red Duke. Tima was created in the image of Red Duke's dead daughter. Red Duke plans to gain control of the whole world by making Tima sit atop the Ziggurat, a throne of power he had prepared. However, Red Duke's insanely jealous adopted son Rock murders Dr. Laughton and destroys the lab before Tima can be activated. Fortunately, Kenichi arrives at the scene in time to save Tima... but Rock soon finds out that Tima survived, and the chase is on!
Review: Metropolis is something of a slow-starter. Despite the fact that I was totally blown away by the impressive visuals from the beginning, I had a difficult time getting through the first ten minutes or so. There was a lot of political talk regarding robot labor and what-not, all of which I found to be very boring.
The pace and the story picks up after the murder of Dr. Laughton. Tima awakens and is saved by Kenichi, Rock finds out and wastes no time in trying to kill them every step of the way. The chase spans Metropolis' colorful city streets as well as the dark, dank sewers underneath. Tima and Kenichi are given ample opportunities to bond and develop feelings for each other while on the run, and yet even so I could not feel for them as much as I was supposed to. I believe this can be attributed to the fact that character development was lacking for most part.
Among all the characters, I felt the most for Pero and Fifi, both of who are robots who don't get too much screentime. Pero is hired by Shunsaku and Kenichi to accompany them around the city, and Fifi helps Tima and Kenichi get away from Rock. The only human character I found interesting enough to feel anything for was Rock. Evil bastard that he is, he gave me the impression that he grew up with all the wrong values and I could actually understand what propelled him. All the others seemed to be there just to move the plot along -- Kenichi is there to help Tima evade her pursuers for a time, Shunsaku serendipitously appears to save whoever needs to be saved, etc.
The audio-visual aspect is where this movie truly shines. I was awestruck by the superbly rendered 3D backdrops -- from the sprawling cityscape to the insides of the Ziggurat. More remarkable was the fact that the two-dimensional characters manage to blend in flawlessly with the whole scenario. Watching Metropolis in full DTS mode entreated me to a stunning earful as well. The music, as well as the sound effects and dialogues, were so crisp and clear that it was like I was in the middle of Metropolis myself. I almost had shivers when they started playing the 50's hit "I Can't Stop Loving You" amidst the destruction and havoc in the last part, it was sheer irony and yet the song depicted the prevailing sentiments perfectly. The English dubbing is nicely done as well.
Metropolis is altogether a good film, but as I've mentioned earlier, the characters seemed to exist solely for the story's convenience and I found it difficult to like them. There was just something missing, something that holds me back from extolling its greatness. It was well worth watching though and I don't regret picking it up.
Miscellanies: Columbia Tri-Star's R3 DVD release is identical to the R1 DVD release.