Movie Reviews
1:47 pm
Wed April 3, 2002

Metropolis

With a combination of old-fashioned painted-cel animation, less-than-fluid motion, and modern digital technology based on a 1949 manga (comic book) by the late Osamu Tezuka, this animation is filled with ideas of love and identity, be it human or robot.

"Who am I?" asks the half-human robot girl at the end of this exciting Japanese anime film, "Metropolis." With a combination of old-fashioned painted-cel animation, less-than-fluid motion, and modern digital technology based on a 1949 manga (comic book) by the late Osamu Tezuka, this animation is filled with ideas of love and identity, be it human or robot.

The half-robot Tima’s cry for self-knowledge and love is heartbreaking and lonely, not different from the most human existential philosopher down to pop poets like Madonna. In fact, Fritz Lang’s robot in his 1926 classic by the same name bears traces of Madonna in her breast cups and questionable sexuality.

The artistry is colorful, right down to the big-eyed characters who are vulnerable to the wiles of the world. If you think thematically of "A.I.," i.e., can machines be loved? and visually of "Blade Runner," i.e., skyscrapers and canyons reminiscent of 9/11, then you'll have an idea of this animation's richness. Add to this menagerie of idea and image the plight of the laborer and the oppression of fascist states, you will have a notion that this is not your dad's cartoon, despite the 30's "Felix the Cat" and "Betty Boop" artistry.

In a closing scene Ray Charles sings "I can’t stop loving you" while the city is being destroyed. Stanley Kubrick would have been proud. While this film depicts a child's rejection by his father and asks if it is possible to love a machine, "A.I." imperfectly told of a mother's rejection and asked if a machine could be loved. Steven Spielberg could have benefited from anime training.