Based on a manga that was itself inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic of the same name (although it’s narratively significantly different from that film), Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis is a spectacular accomplishment that looks better than ever on this new Blu-ray. It follows the journey of Kenichi, a young man who has arrived in Metropolis with his detective uncle on the hunt for a rogue scientist involved with organ smuggling. But the scientist has been building a robot for Duke Red, the impressively coiffed leader of Metropolis, and when the scientist is murdered by Duke Red’s jealous son Rock and his laboratory is engulfed in flames, Kenichi rescues a wide-eyed young girl called Tima from the inferno. Lost in the underground maze beneath the city, with Rock in murderous pursuit, Kenichi and Tima must find their way back to the surface. But Kenichi doesn’t realise that Tima is Duke Red’s robot, and not even Tima knows the fate that’s in store for her when she is eventually reunited with Metropolis’s despotic creator.
Quite simply, Metropolis is dazzling to watch. Fans of the Fritz Lang movie will love all the small ways that Tezuka graphically plays homage to that film (the fine detail on the skyscrapers and cityscapes are especially superb) and even though the two stories are very different animals, it’s clear that politically and ideologically they do share the same universe. In fact, one of the most intriguing things about the film is how Tezuka (and, presumably, the original manga) inverts many of Lang’s most famous tropes, especially the iconic Robot Maria who, in the body of Tima, is a completely different entity, and the famous rebellion when Lang’s subterranean workers surge up to the surface to lay waste to the city, which is cleverly subverted in this vision. Even Tima’s throne, when it appears towards the climax of the movie, is a smart techno twist on Lang’s original conception.
But it’s the story itself where Tezuka’s Metropolis has problems. Although it moves along at a steady pace, there are also moments – especially during the quieter scenes between Kenichi and Tima – when the story drags and the dialogue becomes maudlin. It’s only a small criticism, but for a film that is steeped in so many gorgeous visuals it’s a pity that the script couldn’t maintain similar levels of texture and excitement.
As for Eureka’s new dual format presentation, it’s superb and loaded with some terrific special features, including a fascinating ‘Making of’. Highly recommended.
OSAMU TEZUKA’S METROPOLIS / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: RINTARO / SCREENPLAY: KATSUHIRO OTOMO / STARRING: YUKA IMOTO, KEI KOBAYASHI, KOKI OKADA, TARO ISHIDA / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 13TH