No, this isn’t a remake of the 1926 German silent classic by Fritz Lang, but rather a Japanese anime explosion inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s 1949 manga comic of the same name. Tezuka (1928-1989) claimed to have based his whole adventure on seeing a single still from Lang’s masterwork. The resulting narrative, set in a sci-fi future, combines detective story action with political intrigue on the way to foregrounding science-vs.-morality issues a la Frankenstein.
As realized by director Rintaro (X: The Movie) from a screenplay by Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), this new Metropolis is absolutely spectacular. Making use of the latest in Japanese animation, digital technology and an audacious jazz score, it’s a thrill ride that slows down for a meditative or sentimental moment or two, but never stops stimulating the eye via layer upon multilayer upon megalayer of constantly morphing inventiveness. From panoramic cityscapes (crawling with humans, robots, airborne and surface vehicles, and filled with mind-boggling architectural detail) to a wide range of fully realized characters (a mad scientist and his mysterious creation, a maniacal legislator and his murderous assistant, corrupt politicians, fascist troops, labor-saving droids and unemployed humans, a portly detective and his heroic young sidekick), everything is drawn intricately and impressively. The screen becomes a battleground where megaliths turn into towers of Babel; sunshine (actual and metaphorical) contends with forces of darkness, and good old class struggle is the background for a story worthy of ancient Greek tragedy.
Because Japanese anime is in a chicken-and-egg relationship with cyberpunk fiction and late-20th century sci-fi, there are sequences in this new version of Metropolis that resonate with familiarity: Hints of images from H.G. Wells’ Things to Come, Blade Runner, The Matrix and even Dr. Strangelove alternate with apocalyptic scenes right out of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, though none of these outweigh clearly post-Hiroshima Japanese concerns about nuclear madness and absolute power gone awry.
At the core of this colossal vision is a personal story, a tale of innocence that ends in horror. And an unforgettable character — Tima, girl-child in a strange land — who, much like the bride of Frankenstein, is headed for the abyss.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.
George Tysh is Metro Times arts editor. E-mail him at email@example.com.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.