tek's rating: ¾

Metropolis (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This movie came out in 2001, but I didn't see it until 2013. It's based on the 1949 manga by the legendary Osamu Tezuka (which I haven't read). The manga itself was inspired by the 1927 German silent film "Metropolis," which I think I may have seen at some point, but don't remember clearly. Still, the anime was clearly influenced by that movie as well as by the manga. Um... I'm not exactly sure when the movie is set, but it has a very retro-futuristic look, and the music sounds very 1930s, for the most part.

There's a private detective from Japan, named Shunsaku Ban, who travels to Metropolis with his nephew, Ken-ichi, who is also apparently his apprentice or something. (These characters are used in other of Tezuka's manga series, such as Astroboy and "Nextworld," though I don't think such series are meant to be considered connected in any real way.) They're looking for a wanted criminal named Dr. Laughton, who they've heard is hiding out in Metropolis. (I have no idea where in the world the city is, but I get the impression it's actually more of an independent city-state. I could be wrong though, because I think there was a mayor as well as a president.) It's the most advanced city in the world, and as it happens, it is currently celebrating the completion of a huge tower called the Ziggurat. The Ziggurat was designed by a man named Duke Red, who I guess is very popular and powerful; though not technically a politician, he seems to have at least as much power as the president. Um, and he's also the founder of the Malduk party, though their status is sort of vigilantes, and I gather Red is not supposed to be officially one of them, even though everyone knows he is. There's also an oppressed underground group of workers who want to start a revolution; they're led by a guy named Atlas. And robots seem to be caught in the middle of all this political discord and social upheaval. But honestly, I didn't really understand any of that. Apparently the Malduks are against robots, but then it also seems that the revolutionaries are against robots, who have been taking jobs away from human workers. I kept feeling like surely someone must be on the side of the robots, in this conflict, but I'm not sure who. Probably whatever party the president belonged to, though they just see robots as servants, or slaves. Or something. Meanwhile, the president and his staff were apparently also on the side of Duke Red... at least as long as it was politically convenient.

Anyway... it turns out that the fugitive Dr. Laughton had secretly been hired by Red to build the most advanced robot ever- technically an android, who looked like a human girl. Also, Red has an adopted son named Rock, who is an important member of the Malduk party, who does various "dirty work" for Red. But he finds out about the android, who is named Tima, and wants to destroy her, because he doesn't want her taking his place in his father's heart, I guess (though it never seemed like Rock had much of a place in Red's heart, anyway). Rock kills Laughton and starts a fire in his factory. But Shunsaku and Ken-ichi, along with a robot whom they called Pero, find the factory, and Ken-ichi rescues Tima from the fire (unaware that she's a robot). They get separated from his uncle, so Ken-ichi and Tima become friends. Meanwhile, Rock hunts them down, constantly trying to kill Tima. They're befriended by Atlas, though.

Meanwhile, Duke Red tests out a new superweapon that he built into the Ziggurat, which would allow him to control the world. So the president secretly allies with the rebels, planning to arrest Red on charges of treason. But of course, Red has his own secret plans to counter the attempted revolution. Anyway... eventually we learn the real purpose of his having Tima constructed, but I don't want to give that away. (It's ironic and confusing that he wanted a robot for his purpose, considering he's supposed to be part of a group that's against robots. But this seems to be one of the things that motivates Rock to hate Tima so much.) I will say, though, that his plans for Tima didn't turn out at all like he expected.

I feel like I'm leaving out lots of stuff and forgetting lots of other stuff, but actually... I'm not sure how much more there is to it all. It's just all confusing and weird. But the movie has beautiful animation, good music, and a reasonably interesting story (to whatever degree I could follow it). It's also rather tragic, which, you know, is sometimes an appropriate thing for a story to be. I thought it worked pretty well, here.


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