Metropolis (2001)

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Released 15-Oct-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles
Gallery-Photo-3
Featurette-Animax Special: The Making Of Metropolis
Filmographies-Crew
Notes-History of Metropolis
Multiple Angles-Animation Comparisons (2)
Interviews-Crew
dts Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 104:12
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:02)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rintaro
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $42.95 Music Toshiyuki Honda


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Hindi
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The name Metropolis means one of two things to most people. It's the city Superman lives in to many. To others, it is the name of a classic 1927 film made by Fritz Lang. This review concerns neither Superman, nor that classic film. This Metropolis is an anime film made in 2001, but inspired by a manga (comic book or graphic novel) written 50 years ago.

    That manga was written by Osamu Tezuka, now regarded as one of the greats (he created Astroboy, amongst others). This title was one of his first, and he was not particularly proud of it. In fact, when he was approached with a view to making it into animation he said no quite emphatically. Rintaro was extremely keen to make this film, however, and returned to the project after the death of Osamu Tezuka. He enlisted the help of Katsuhiro Otomo, a brilliant writer with whom he had worked previously, and so this project began.

    It is quite clear from many of the extras that this was a labour of love for Rintaro and Otomo (and for others). Considerable amounts of money were invested in the project, too — one of the trailers reports an expenditure of over a billion yen (sounds like a lot, doesn't it?).

    The style of animation used for this film is really interesting. The backgrounds have been generated using 3D computer graphics, but the foreground characters are hand-drawn cel work, patterned after the work in Osamu Tezuka's original manga. The result is truly beautiful to look at.

    This Metropolis shares some themes with the Fritz Lang film: the eponymous city is utopian, but it is sustained by the labour of robots behind the scenes, and that creates discord.

    In this film we see a number of factions, including the current government, led by President Boone. The Malduks, who dress like fascists, are led by Rock but secretly financed by Duke Red. The revolutionaries, led by Atlas, oppose the Malduks. The military, led by the militaristic minister Skunk. We also see how the city is divided into layers, with most robots banished to the underground where they labour out of sight.

    The Malduks don't like robots, and pretend to perform a public service by shooting down any robot that goes rogue. Rock leads by example, and does a lot of robot shooting. He refers to Duke Red as father, a term Duke Red repudiates, although he admits to taking Rock in after the war and raising him. Rock claims his primary motivation is protecting Duke Red.

    We are introduced to the city by following Kenichi and his uncle Shunsaku Ban, who is a private investigator from Japan who has traced a wanted man to Metropolis. Shunsaku needs the help of the local police to track down this man, Dr Laughton. Dr Laughton is wanted for vivisection and for illegal use of human organs. Shunsaku traced him to Metropolis with the help of a known organ smuggler. Shunsaku and Kenichi have arrived at a momentous time: Metropolis is celebrating the completion of The Ziggurat — a mighty tower that shows how Metropolis leads the world in science and technology.

    It turns out that Dr Laughton is working for Duke Red, creating a robot called Tima, who is modelled after Duke Red's dead daughter.

    I'm not going to describe more of the plot, but suffice it to say that this movie explores some classic themes, including both Frankenstein and the Tower of Babel, plus the eternal question: what does it mean to be human? This is not done heavy-handedly, though — you can enjoy the movie without having to think, if that's what you feel like.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was 1.85:1, so that's good.

    The picture is excellent. It is fairly sharp and clear, but not so sharp as to encourage aliasing. It is completely without low level noise. Shadow detail is a meaningless concept in animation, but darker scenes display excellent differentiation between dark colours and black.

    Colour is strong and vivid. There is no over-saturation, no bleed, and no colour-related artefacts of any kind.

    There are a couple of scenes that have been deliberately shot with film grain, including the opening scene (which also has a lot of artificial film artefacts) — these are deliberate, and cannot be counted towards the artefacts score. Everything else is spotlessly clean. There are no accidental film artefacts, no aliasing, no moire, and no MPEG artefacts. You'll rarely see a film so clean, but one might hope for that, given that this film is pretty much brand new.

    There are three English subtitle tracks (plus Hindi, which is an interesting choice). The first is the original translation, made by the Japanese. The second is the US Theatrical translation. The third is a set of English captions. I watched all three. None of them is perfectly synchronised with the English dialogue, but that may be because they are synchronised to the Japanese. They vary somewhat, but I assume each is reasonably accurate.

    The feature disc is single sided and RSDL-formatted. The layer change is located at 48:02; it is hidden inside a fade-to-black silent scene change, and is pretty  much invisible — masterful work.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are several soundtracks on this DVD: Japanese and English in Dolby Digital 5.1, and English in dts 5.1. I listened to all three (that's a lot of listening). In summary, the dts is noticeable better.

    The dialogue is clear, and the English is readily comprehensible (I don't understand the Japanese). There are no obvious mismatches between the dialogue and the character mouth movements. As I mentioned above, there are sync problems between the English dialogue and the subtitles, but that may not be a problem.

    The score is awesome. The music is by Toshiyuki Honda, and contains a number of musical styles, but it is mostly traditional jazz and Dixieland — not what you might expect, but very effective. I noticed, by the way, that the bass clarinet in the jazz band was played by Rintaro...

    All of the soundtracks feature excellent near-continuous surround activity for both ambience and score, but the dts soundtrack is amazing. The subwoofer is used for the lowest register of the score, for explosions, and for other low-frequency effects. The climax of the film seems a little anticlimactic with the Dolby Digital soundtrack, but not so with the dts. This dts soundtrack is demo material!

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is animated with music — a little bit fancy, but easy enough to operate.

Theatrical Trailer (1:35)

    This trailer is rather interesting, with some details about the film makers.

Trailer — Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles (1:37)

    This is a trailer for the entire series of Roughnecks discs.

Photo Gallery — Character Design

Animation Comparisons

    These are really interesting. They have created two multi-angle sequences, illustrating different stages of the animation development. You finally get a chance to use the Angle button on your remote!

Animax Special - Making Of (33:15)

    This is a lengthy and interesting making of, with a lower level of puffery than usual. Recommended.

Filmographies

History of Metropolis

    Eleven pages of information about the development of this film.

Filmmaker Interviews (8:07)

    Interviews with Rintaro and Katsuhiro Otomo. There's some overlap with the Animax Special, but that's to be expected.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release came out not too long ago, and is very similar to this one. The most immediately noticeable differences are that the US version is packaged in cardboard rather than a plastic keepcase, and that the second disc (the extras) is an 8cm DVD, rather than a full-size (13cm) one — I was rather pleased to get the 8cm disc because it is useful when reviewing a new DVD player.

    The Region 1 release is missing:

    The Region 4 release is missing:

    The R4 video is slightly better, but the difference is quite slight — you have to be quite picky to see any difference.

    If you prefer to listen to your anime in Japanese, then I recommend the R1 disc. If you prefer to listen in English, then I recommend the R4; this is because the dts soundtracks are noticeably better than the Dolby Digital ones. Naturally, if you cannot play dts sound, that doesn't hold.

Summary

    Metropolis is a superb anime, on an excellent DVD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is magnificent, with some very good dts demo passages.

    The extras are extensive and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, November 02, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Gavin T

Comments (Add)
beware - there is now a 1 disc version on sale - shinydiscaddict