Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (6th July 2019).
The Film

"Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis" (2001)

In the bustling advanced city of Metropolis, the large towering structure the "Ziggurat" designed by Duke Red (played by Taro Ishida) is being celebrated by politicians and the people, but it is also causing some unwanted happenings. In the multilayered city where the lower class live and work in the ghettoized underground areas and the higher class live above in skyscrapers, it also divides the classes with the many robots that help move the city. There are cleaners, hotel staff, and even police officers but they are restricted to their assigned areas. If any are found outside their areas, they are destroyed. Visiting the city is Detective Ban (played by Kosei Tomita) along with his young nephew Kenichi Kei Kobayashi), on a pursuit to arrest a wanted criminal named Dr. Laughton (played by Junpei Takiguchi) where leads pointed to the city. Laughton is in fact working for Duke Red, in creating a new kind of robot named Tima (played by Yuka Imoto) more powerful and more humanlike than ever before, in his plans to eventually rule the city.

"Metropolis" was based on the manga of the same name written by Tezuka Osamu in 1949. Sharing the same name as the 1927 German film "Metropolis", Tezuka claims he saw one still from the film in a magazine with a scientist, an elderly man, and a female robot in shot but knew nothing of the film. After the success of his "New Treasure Island" from 1947, he had a year to create a new work. With the lingering image, Tezuka created a 160 page manga with a science fiction touch and became a surprise success with readers. Although popular, the story was never continued and Tezuka never revisited it, leaving it as a one off project that he felt was a rushed and incomplete early work over time. Although some characters featured would eventually appear in Tezuka's other works in the Tezuka-verse, it would take more than half a century and after his death until the story of "Metropolis" would be reimagined for a new audience.

Anime director Rintaro approached Tezuka in the 1980s about adapting his works for the screen. When asked which work he desired to do, "Metropolis" was his easy answer, but Tezuka shot the idea down immediately. He was not particularly proud of it and did not want to revive it in any way. After his death in 1989, the rights and licensing to Tezuka's works obviously did not need approval from the creator anymore but instead by Tezuka Productions. In the mid-1990s production for a feature length "Metropolis" commenced, with Rintaro directing, Katsuhiro Otomo writing the screenplay and the studio Madhouse animating. The story was fairly changed from the original book. Police Chief Notarlin's role was severely decreased to basically a cameo role. The boy robot of "Michi" was changed to the girl "Tima" and the origin of the robot was changed to Dr. Laughton creating the artificial human. The significant character of Duke Red's adopted son Rock (played by Koki Okada was added to the film as a villain. Elements from the 1927 movie were heavily borrowed such as the origin of Tima, the plight of the lower classes in the divided city. The film adaptation is more or less a very loose adaptation of the original Tezuka story.

The element of a robot that has no memory of its past and no knowledge of what it is or what it is made for can be seen in multiple stories ranging from "Short Circuit", "The Iron Giant", or "Wall-E". But with the multi-layered city of "Metropolis", the story itself is very multilayered. In addition to a boy and a robot, there is the story of a billionaire seeking a way to control all robots and the city through questionable technology. A man that cannot get passed the traumatic loss of his daughter that he is looking to recreate her artificially. A son that looks for his father's a affection by any means necessary, including murder. A social injustice story of class structure, political corruption, protests, and a coup de tate. The reliance of technology and the dangers of technology overtaking humankind. Like screenwriter Otomo's breakthrough "Akira" and his subsequent film "Steamboy", the story has many similarities in the dangers of mad science and technology falling into the wrong hands, especially for political gain. The time period of the film is an alternate past or an alternate future. Technologically with the advancement of robots and transportation the setting is very futuristic. On the other hand there are no computers or cellphones with people relying on fairly old technology, and the music and fashion reflecting the 1920s. In essence it certainly feels like the world of the Fritz Lang film as well as the setting in the original manga.

"Metropolis" is visually and aurally an amazing piece of filmmaking. The lengthy five year production uses elements of both traditional cell animation as well as computer animation for certain elements and segments, blended very well. The character designs are based on Tezuka's, who was clearly inspired by Disney and Fleischer Brothers, looking quite different in comparison to more modern animation. Truly a standout in its release in 2001, the story is not at all perfect by any means. There are questionable elements, such as why Ban decided to bring his teenage nephew on a possibly dangerous case, why Rock wasn't arrested, or why Notarlin or the rest of the police force were not more helpful in regards to helping Ban more, and one big mystery - why was there a candle that suddenly appears then vanishes on the President's assistant's head around the one hour mark when he is assassinated? There are certain plot holes here and there and having so many happenings during the fairly short runtime it can be a chore to keep up, but it is a film that can be watched multiple times and new elements can be found in the story. Many may also find quite a few English mistakes in the background art, where there is a lot of writing present. At one point in the police station spelling "Metlopolis" is embarrassing, as well as the newspapers saying it is the "Dayly News".

"Metropolis" was released in Japanese cinemas on May 26, 2001. A production budget of 1 billion Yen (US $15 million) with more than 150,000 drawings used for the five year production, the film was not a financial hit. Grossing only 750 million Yen domestically. Though it received positive reviews it did not connect with audiences and quickly disappeared from cinemas. Tristar/Sony Pictures picked up the international rights, though the release was delayed due to the September 11 2001 attacks, as the ending of the film had the spectacular suicide and building destruction sequence with the fantastic Ray Charles song. The international premieres were delayed until early 2002, where the film grossed a fair but underwhelming $4 million. Even with total grosses, the film was in the red (Duke Red?). Very well received internationally, the film surprisingly developed a respectable following on DVD with Sony Pictures releasing a very well produced DVD for the international market. In Japan the film is mostly a footnote with many people not even remembering its existence. "Metropolis" still stands high in regards to animated Tezuka adaptations. He may not have liked the original story much, and disapproved an adaptation from happening, but his inspiration is timeless and wonderful, sparking new ideas full of wonder and amazement.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umnbrella Entertainment presents the film in the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The HD transfer seems to come from a slightly older master, but is a fairly good one. It is framed well with thin black lines on top and bottom (as opposed to the slightly windowboxed DVD editions), colors are bold and a bit on the brighter side in comparison to the older Sony DVDs and there are no major issues of damage or errors. On the negative side there is a bit of telecine wobble on some scenes and a bit of blurriness in portions from the dated master, though it is a good step up from the old DVD editions from almost two decades ago.

The film uses the original Japanese credits so it has the final "frame" that was missing from the Sony DVDs which used the English language credits. The uncut runtime is 107:28.

Audio

Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English LPCM 2.0 stereo

There are a total of four audio tracks. Lossless 5.1 tracks for the original Japanese and dubbed English as well as stereo downmixes of the two tracks. It is a very lively soundtrack with the jazzy score coming to life in the full soundscape, explosions and gunfire ready to surprise audiences, and the minute sounds of the hustle and bustle of the city enveloping the speakers. Dialogue is mostly centered though some directional panning is used at times. The Japanese track is obviously the way to go being the original. The English dub tries to fill in many of the empty gaps and sounds a little too forced in comparison to the Japanese. The stereo tracks are fair but pale in comparison to the 5.1 tracks. On the menu screen only the 5.1 tracks are mentioned but using the audio key during playback will also reveal the 2.0 tracks.

There are optional English subtitles in two different forms. The first is the original translation, and the second is an alternate translation for the US theatrical release. There are notable differences such as "Malduk" or "Marduk" being spelled differently and other changes, though nothing to change the story entirely. Both tracks use British English spelling rather than American, as these tracks are identical to the font style, color, and timing from the Eureka UK Blu-ray. There are some errors in the spelling, such as "ofTokyo" rather than "of Tokyo" in the second subtitle track at one point, but this doesn't seem to be the fault of Umbrella as it was also in the subtitle track on the Eureka Blu-ray release.

Extras

"The Making of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis" documentary (33:17)
In this vintage documentary, it features interview clips with Rintaro and Otomo sitting together discussing the making of the film, Tezuka's thoughts against updating the story, plus interviews with the voice actors on their roles and composer Toshiyuki Honda and singer Minako Obata on the vintage sounding jazz score. There is also footage from the premiere screening and reactions from the cast. This documentary was originally on the Sony DVD editions. Clips from the film are presented in windowboxed form.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1 / windowboxed 1.85:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles

Filmmaker Interviews (8:05)
Taken from the same interview session as the documentary above, this is an extended clip of the filmmakers on the making of the film. They discuss Tezuka's input before his death, the use of cell animation and digital animation, and updating the story to a complete form. This interview was originally on the Sony DVD editions. Clips from the film are presented in windowboxed form.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1 / windowboxed 1.85:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles

Animation Comparisons (12:33)
Two short clips of the city view and the wheel room are presented in progression reels from digital grading to fully animated forms. Although it is in 1080p this comes from a standard definition master like the rest of the extras. On the Sony DVDs this was presented as two multi-angle featurettes but on this release it is presented all in one title back to back.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Trailer (1:41)
A techno-beat led American trailer that shows great visuals but does not get the feel of the movie down correctly. This trailer was originally on the Sony DVD editions.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Promotional Trailer (2:18)
The Japanese promo trailer features a big-beat electronic track that also feels quite different from the film’s themes. The trailer is quite pixelated here in comparison to the previous trailer. There is no dialogue though there are Japanese captions on screen, left untranslated. This trailer was originally on the Sony DVD editions.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.90:1, Music Dolby Digital 2.0 with Japanese captions


This release carries over almost all the extras from the Sony DVD releases from the early 2000s. The extras that were not carried over are the "History Of Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis Comic Book" text screens, photo galleries, and filmography text pages. In Japan, the Bandai Visual "Memorial Box" 2 disc set had some differing exclusive extras along with lengthy books packaged together. On Blu-ray, the US release from Mill Creek and the UK release from Eureka have the same extras included in the Australian release, though note the US release has all the extras on the accompanying DVD rather than on the Blu-ray disc itself. In Japan the overpriced Bandai Visual Blu-ray only included the two trailers as extras. There have been no new extras made for the film over the years.

Packaging

The packaging states region B but is in fact a region ALL disc.
The inlay is reversible with almost identical artwork on the opposite side, with the differences being the Australian rating logo removed and the top left quote also removed.

Overall

"Metropolis" is one step away from the original Tezuka story but with the inspirations from Otomo's works as well as the Fritz Lang movie combined, it's truly a gorgeously animated piece that is beautiful, exciting, and densely layered. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray has a good transfer, great audio, and a fair selection of extras making it very recommended.

The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: B- Overall: B+

 


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