Genre: Adventure, Animation
If Disney re-made Blade Runner, Metropolis would likely be the result, and if you think this concept sounds like it might become problematic then you'd probably be right. Rather strikingly is the animation on the characters which feels ripped straight from a Disney classic, like a lost “Aladdin,” “Snow White” or “Lion King” film, but this is just an aside when compared to the work that has gone on in the backgrounds. Like Blade Runner before it, the city you find yourself immersed in, whilst perhaps sharing more in common with “Rapture” from the well known game Bioshock, is teeming with life; people busily going about their business in the upper levels, the robots cleaning the streets and then the slums where people forage for food and smoke in the dingy back alleys untouched by police presence. The quality of the animation here is nothing short of mind-blowing – Madhouse, the production company responsible, have spared no expense in making this as much of a visual feast as they possibly could – and probably ranks as one of the most picturesque animations I've seen, even seamlessly combining the usual bane of my existence in CGI into the fray, but this is where my admiration for the film ends.
The story finds ourselves largely concerned with the Private Investigator and his nephew, Kenichi, on the hunt for a missing scientist, wanted for being under suspicion of performing illegal activities; in fact he is working for a powerful Duke with a manipulative hand on the government allowing him free reign to do as he pleases, forcing the the scientist to work on a robotic creation called Tima that would put all others to shame. It is the Dukes adoptive son, Rock, who becomes jealous and seeks to destroy his work, but Kenichi manages to escape with her forcing Rock to hunt them down. The “Disney-Runner” comparisons work quite effectively in describing the plot as well; the cliché love story between Kenichi and Tima feels as old as cinema itself and adds nothing remotely interesting to the story, except to serve as a superficial emotional motivation to get them into the next eye-candy scene. Likewise, the usual questions regarding artificial intelligence and the fine line between man and machine feel glossed over in an effort to prevent alienating anyone who dislikes thinking about things.
And in doing so, so much of it feels like a standard “Family” film; everything's been simplified to the point where 5 year olds might feel their intelligence being insulted, with no real motive given for most of the story, resulting in an aimless meandering plot as our detective and his nephew seem to spend most of the film trying to find each other again. And when they finally do, they split up ensuing yet another quest to find each other. And how does it all end? They decide to split up again. Only one character ever makes his motivations known, and even then it's simple jealousy which is hardly a hinge to hang up the entire story, but the real problem with this film is that – rather moronically – they made it unsuitable for children. Whilst little blood is shown, there is more than a few animated gunshots; robots have their heads blown off and 'skin' grazed to uncover their inner workings, and they aren't exactly subtle in the rather intricate and frightening machinery and weaponry that pops out and moves like some giant mechanical monster.
As I mentioned at the start, there is nothing bad that can be said about the animation itself but it's all stumbles when it comes to the plot. The characters barely speak to each other, a result I can only assume is because of the original silent film this re-make was based (well, it was based on a manga which was based on the silent film, but a remade-remake sounds awkward), but neither is there any real emotion or even significant amount of time spent with one another. The half-baked love story emerges from out of the blue and we never feel any sort of connection to them making the whole Disney-fied cliché “brink of death” ending rather futile and drawn out (if you're gonna bump them off, get it over with already). The plot begins abruptly with little explanation and it doesn't get any better, on occasion seeming to irrationally jump forward in time. Characters which initially seem like they might be important are bumped off without so much as a mild profanity uttered, just a completely sterile and emotionless event in this thing they seem to think constitutes a storyline. The void where the character development should be isn't even picked up again by keeping the action frenetic; in fact there are are long periods where nothing of interest at all seems to happen, just cruising through the plot points to get to the next bit of interesting animation. And sadly that's what it all boils down to: Metropolis is little more than beautifully animated fluff.