Metropolis (2001)

Rating: C+

Dir: Rintaro
Star (voice): Yuka Imoto, Kei Kobayashi, Kouki Okada, Junpei Takiguchi

Some anime feature films have a tendency to let the images get in the way of everything else – see Akira, Ghost in the Shell or X for details. And when you combine the writer of the first-named, and the director of the last-named, you know to brace yourself for stunning visuals…but not much else. Such is the case here; the setting is an incredible retro-futurist city of dirigibles and robots, skyscrapers and chasms, all portrayed in hyper-realistic detail. Unfortunately, the characters may be true to Osama Tezuka’s post-war manga, yet look horrible against the uber-technoid backdrop; it’s as if you popped Scarlett O’Hara down into Blade Runner.

It doesn’t help matters that in the first half, they do little save meander round the city, as if on a walking tour. [Look! We’re now in the power station!] It seems the makers were unwilling to interrupt your gawking for anything so mundane as a plot, but it’s like staring at the Mona Lisa for an hour straight – you get over it, fast. The second half improves, mixing a military takeover, a robotic revolt and an anti-robot uprising, with the most stunning collapse of a skyscraper I’ve seen since… er, September 11th. And even that didn’t have a Ray Charles soundtrack. But the end product is still largely lifeless; that James Cameron praised Metropolis is really no surprise, since it shares much the same triumph of technology over humanity as his past couple of films.