• Metropolis (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: June 5th, 2019.
    Director: Rintaro
    Cast: Yuka Imoto, Kei Kobayashi, Koki Okada, Taro Ishida, Kosei Tomita
    Year: 2001
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    Metropolis – Movie Review:

    Shuichi Hirata’s animated adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s manga of the same name (which was first published way back in 1949), which features a screenplay from none other than Katsuhiro Otomo (the man who wrote Akira), borrows from Fritz Lang’s 1927 iconic silent film of the same name without being a full-on remake.

    Released in 2001, the story takes place in a future where humans and robot slaves exist peacefully alongside each other. Here, in the mega-city of Metropolis, the populace is excited about the opening of a massive new tower dubbed the Ziggurat. The man behind the creation of this tower is Duke Red (Jamieson Price), a more than quirky and highly egomaniacal man who has coerced a scientist named Dr. Laughton (Junpei Takeguchi) to create a robot clonde of his recently deceased daughter Tima (Yuka Imoto). Laughton obliges this request, but there’s more to Tima than we first realize – she’s also very dangerous.

    Tima has been programmed differently than the scores of robot slaves that live alongside her in the city. In fact, the Ziggurat has been specially designed with her in mind, coming complete with a throne at its top where Duke Red intends to install her as ruler of Metropolis. Before this can be done, an assassin named Rock (Kouki Okada) kills Dr. Laughton. Rock just so happens to be Duke Red’s adopted son, and he’s an anti-robot extremist, almost acting as a political terrorist of sorts. As this is happening, a boy named Kenichi (Kei Kobayashi) accompanies his uncle, Shunsaku Ban (Kousei Tomita), a detective, on his mission to arrest Laughton. Given what has just happened, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t go as planned – but they’re able to rescue Tima form the mess that Rock has created and, with some help from a police robot named Pero (Dave Mallow), keep her safe for now. And then the robots start to rise up…

    Osamu Tezuka is, no doubt, best known as the creator of Astro Boy but Metropolis, at least in this animated version, deserves to be just as well-known. It’s a thought-provoking and intelligent story, pre-dating Blade Runner by a few decades. It pulls some of the themes and ideas from Lang’s picture and gives them a unique spin, paying homage to that picture more than a few times but definitely telling its own, story even if at times it doesn’t feel as original or unique as you might hope it would be. The plot pulls us in well enough. Some, though not all, of the characters are interesting and well-written and the pace is quite solid, although it does fall short of reaching the heights of suspense that maybe it could have hit. We get to know the key players well enough to decide on our own who to side with and there’s enough depth to them that we can even find ourselves getting attached to some of them.

    The movie’s visuals, however, are where the film really shines. The animation employed in the picture is beautiful. There’s some massive scope on display here, the titular city is portrayed as a huge, sprawling landscape unto itself. The use of color is often quite beautiful and the design work that went into getting all of this together is nothing short of impressive. It’s easy, at times, to get lost in the detail on display in the picture, and the film is set to an impressive score that is as quirky as they come, mixing more traditional instrumental pieces with Dixieland and ragtime style bits and pieces throughout.

    Metropolis – Blu-ray Review:

    Metropolis arrives on region B encoded Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment on a 50GB disc with the feature taking up 34GBs of space. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, which would appear to be the original aspect ratio for the film and it looks very good here. Colors pop quite nicely, we get really strong black levels and all of the detail in the original animation comes out quite nicely here. There are no noticeable compression artifacts to complain about nor is there any edge enhancement. The transfer is remarkably clean, showing no noticeable print damage but retaining enough fine grain to make this look like the film-sourced transfer we can safely assume it is.

    The disc includes a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track in English and another in Japanese and both English and Japanese language LPCM 2.0 Stereo tracks with two sets of optional subtitles available in English only translating the English track and the Japanese track. The film plays better in Japanese but the English dubbing here isn’t bad. The 5.1 options spread the score and effects out nicely while the 2.0 options are a bit more restrained. Either way, no issues here. The audio quality is good.

    Extras include a few choice supplements starting with the Animax Special - The Making Of Metropolis. It’s a thirty-three-minute segment that details the themes and ideas the movie explores but which also gives us some insight into Osamu Tezuka’s life and times, the manga that he created that obviously inspired the feature film version, what went into creating the look of the film and more. There are interviews with some of the filmmakers in here as well as some behind the scenes images and a look at the animation house that created the film.

    In the Filmmaker Interviews section we get some insight from director Rintaro on why Metropolis was made, the digital techniques that were used in the film and his thoughts on what Osamu Tezuka might think of the film. We also hear from writer Katsuhiro Otomo on why he wanted to write the script for this film and his feeling on Metropolis.

    The disc also includes Animation Comparisons for the Wheel Room and City View scenes and a theatrical trailer for the feature.

    Metropolis – The Final Word:

    Metropolis is a thoughtful, pensive film. A beautifully made picture that takes the time to pay attention to the little things, it succeeds not just on visual level but on a narrative level as well. It’s engrossing but so too is it a genuine treat for the eyes. Umbrella’s Blu-ray release doesn’t add anything new to the supplemental package but it gives the film a very nice presentation and, as such, is recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Metropolis Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      From the screenshots, this doesn’t look as clear as the Mill Creek Zone A release.

      Does the 5.1 track still have the added foley from the DVD release? The easy way to tell is if you hear the fireworks explosions during the speech at the start of the movie, before there are fireworks on screen.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      I don't have the DVD release to compare it to but there are audible 'boom' noises over the brief opening credits sequence before the speech starts, so it's likely the same track.
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      That’s too bad. The Mill Creek blu is 2.0 DTS-HD without the additional foley, and it sounds amazing. I went back and checked out some part s from the DVD after watching it, and it was a really bad case of added sfx that made no sense in many places. For example, you probably shouldn’t hear fireworks before there are any fireworks going off in a scene!