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Metropolis (2002)

The visually overwhelming — and subtitled, not dubbed — Japanese animated film Metropolis (2002) is so astoundingly gorgeous and intricately detailed that it's easy to miss entire lines of dialogue because you simply can't tear your eyes away long enough to read the subtitles. And that means even those who usually hate anime might find it intriguing. The story takes place in a sort of retro-future where humans and robots live together in an uneasy symbiosis. The luckier humans live above ground in the city's Zone 1, while robot workers and poorer folk live in the various descending strata below. Shunsaku Ban, a Japanese private detective, arrives in Metropolis with his nephew, Kenichi, hot on the trail of a renegade scientist evocatively named Dr. Laughton. The doctor is working on a top-secret project for Duke Red, the president's calculating right-hand man: a humanoid robot girl, designed to look exactly like Duke's deceased daughter, Tima. But Duke's adopted son, Rock, has a pathological case of sibling rivalry — and besides, he really, really hates robots. So he sets fire to Dr. Laughton's laboratory. When Kenichi and Tima escape, Rock tracks them through the more dangerous lower levels of Metropolis, intent on killing them both. Adapted by Katsuhiro Ôtomo (Akira) from Osamu Tezuka's 1949 graphic novel, Metropolis is only marginally an homage to the great 1927 Fritz Lang film (inspired by a still of Lang's android, Tezuka reportedly never actually saw the entire movie himself.) Rather, Metropolis offers a typically dystopic treatment of the future combined with a wide array of appropriated Western pop images and retro jazz stylings, all in the service of examining the fears, discontent, and culture-shock of postwar industrialized Japan. A dizzying combination of elaborate 3D computer graphics and traditional cell animation, the mixed-bag world of Metropolis contains massive skyscrapers, cigar-shaped futuristic buses, marble floors, falling snow, zeppelins, old-style candlestick telephones, writhing masses of cables, wires, people, and things. References to innumerable films are tossed into the mix, and it's all so beautifully rendered that you'll find yourself hungering to catch every detail. Columbia TriStar's two-disc DVD release of Metropolis (including a three-inch "pocket DVD") offers a gorgeous anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with DTS and Dolby 5.1 audio in Japanese, English, or French, and an array of subtitles. Features include "The Making of Metropolis" (30 min.), animation comparisons, a look at the history of Metropolis, , filmmaker interviews, and theatrical trailers. Dual-DVD digipak.
—Dawn Taylor

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