Steve Blum

134: Metropolis Review

met1.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Ambition feels like such a double-edged sword. You can be respected and admired for how far you take your project, but if it doesn’t entirely work out, all of that ambition will fall flat, due to execution. I’ve seen a lot of Japanese animated films, and that tends to happen to many of them. They might have great visuals, a grand scale in their themes, and so on, but due to either not a good director or writer, you end up with a films that feels clunky in their presentation. This is something I heard a lot about with Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis. Directed by Rintaro, and written by Katsuhiro Otomo, this film was based on the late creator’s manga that was inspired by the famous sci-fi film of the same name. It’s noteworthy as well for being one of the first animated features to be submitted to the Oscars for Best Animated Feature in 2001, but didn’t make it, Instead, that awful Jimmy Neutron movie got nominated. With a list of talent like Rintaro directing, Tezuka’s original manga, and Otomo’s writing, this should be a slam dunk. It did get rave reviews, calling it one of the best animated films from Japan, and I do agree with that. However, let’s dive in and see what else we can find.

met4.jpg

Our story takes place in, where else, Metropolis! It’s a high tech city, filled to the brim with humans, rich and poor, having to live with robots that do a mass majority of “lower-class” work. The city is in a bit of a complicated moment in time, as the President, dubbed by Steve McGowan, is presenting a new massive tower, along with Duke Red, dubbed by Jamieson Price, who might have an alterior motive other than just showing how rich he is. At the same time, a detective named Shunsaku Ban, dubbed by Tony Pope, and his nephew Kenichi, dubbed by Brianne Siddall, arrive in the city to bring in a scientist named Dr. Laughton, dubbed by Simon Prescott. The scientist also happens to be working for Duke Red to make a special project for him. On the day that Shunsaku and Kenichi arrive in the city, and with the help of a robot detective named Pero, dubbed by Dave Mallow, they end up getting caught in a much bigger scheme. Dr. Laughton is then shot by an underling working for Duke Red named Rock, dubbed by Michael Relsz, and his lab is destroyed, with only a mysterious young girl named Tima, dubbed by Rebecca Forstadt, surviving. Why does Duke want her? Will the robots and humans find a way to not get into a revolution against one another? What motives does the President have in terms of the massive tower?

met3.jpg

The major complaint I heard about this movie is that the film is very busy. You not only have Tima and Kenichi, the mystery of Tima’s purpose, the lower class revolution, the discrimination against robots, Duke Red wanting to be a God, Babylon references, government corruption, and yeah, when I list all of that, so the film is busy. I don’t know if they wanted to adapt the entire story of Tezuka’s manga, since Tezuka wasn’t alive anymore when this film was made, but it does come off like that. There are different points in the second half where it seems like time skipped ahead, and nothing is filled in. You see the beginning of the revolution, but then it cuts to the end of it a few minutes later. It definitely feels like they could have cut some characters, because some of the motivations for how certain characters, like Rock and Duke Red, act are not fully explained to the audience. It definitely could have used some fine tuning in the writing, as the huge philosophical elements come off as wonky in the final product. Nothing wrong with combining religion and philosophy on what makes you human, but it does make the film overly complicated. It should have stuck with the story focusing on Tima and Kenichi, because while I do think their bond is strong, I wish there were more scenes with the two.

met2.jpg

I know it sounds like I might hate this movie, and I know some people do, but I really love it. I actually love quite a lot about this film, and I do still agree it’s one of the best and most important animated films from Japan. If you watch any clip of this film, you can tell that the combination of 2D animation and CGI is gorgeous. I love seeing Tezuka’s retro designs on a film budget. This entire film is brimming with beautiful animation, a lot of detail, and personality that makes the city of Metropolis thrive and feel alive. It definitely stands out among the animation seen in more modern day Japanese-animated films.

I also love its jazzy New Orleans-style soundtrack and orchestrated score by Toshiyuki Honda and Atsuki Kimura. However, the best song in this entire film is the Ray Charles version of I Can’t Stop Loving You. It makes the ending so much more emotionally powerful as you see what happens with everyone. It’s a song that always sticks in my mind, and I am actually addicted to it right now as I type this. As for the English dub, it’s pretty sweet, and they have a powerhouse of voice actors for the English dub. You have Brianne Siddall, Rebecca Forstadt, Tony Pope, Jamieson Price, Michael Reisz, Steve Blum, Dave Mallow, Simon Prescott, Dan Woren, Doug Stone, William Frederick Knight, and Barbara Goodson to name some of the best talent you can find in anime. Even though some characters could have been fleshed out more, I still felt for them, and was invested in the overall story. The main heart of the film is definitely when Kenichi and Tima are together. They have some of the best scenes and interactions together. Even if I think this film doesn’t handle philosophical themes well, I still admire that it wanted to be more than just another animated film. It’s at the very least, more than you can say about studios like Blue Sky and Illumination, which I would argue have no ambition to be more than just animated features.

met5.jpg

I find myself constantly coming back to Metropolis. I have seen it probably five or so times now, and I still love it despite its flaws. Unfortunately the original DVD release of this film is entering the $30 range, and I don’t think I would recommend doing that when Mill Creek Entertainment is about to put out a new steel book Blu-ray release of it. If you love animation, the works of Osamu Tezuka, and Japanese-animation history, you should definitely check out this film. For now, let’s take a break from Japanese animation, and move on over to what might be Netflix’s best animated feature since The Little Prince with White Fang. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation: A Cat in Paris Review


(If you like what you see, go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. Thanks for reading and enjoy the review!)

That’s right, viewers, we are back in Paris. However, we are not seeing A Monster in Paris, but we are reviewing A Cat in Paris. This 65-minute French-animated film was directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, and was produced by Folimage. If this company sounds familiar to foreign animated film buffs, this is the same studio that made Raining Cats and Frogs, and Mia and the Migoo, another distinctive-looking animated film. I decided to talk about this film since the creators behind A Cat in Paris have recently made a new movie, and, well, I’m excited! Let’s get on the catwalk and see how good this movie is!

A Cat in Paris is about a young girl and her police commissioner mother. The mother is voiced by Marcia Gay Harden, and she is currently trying to capture and arrest an evil crime boss named Victor Costa, voiced by J.B Blanc. While this is all happening, the young girl learns that her cat leaves the house at night to meet up with a cat burglar named Nico, who is voiced by the always great Steve Blum. A friendship grows between the young girl and Nico, they need to stop Victor Costa from getting a large artifact, and the police are all wrapped up in this plot!

Let’s begin with the good stuff. First off, for 65 minutes, the film does everything that makes a good crime thriller. It has a solid crime, some decent bad guys, some high stakes, likable characters that you want to see not get harmed, and a very atmospheric world. Seriously, the art style really brings you into the noir-style Paris. Its use of pastel-style colors really brings personality to the city night life. Some people might find the character designs a bit weird, but the animation is so beautiful and smooth. It’s a really stylish movie and it stands out among most animated films. I also like the character. Nico is a charming and rather friendly cat burglar, Victor Costa and his goons are goofy and entertaining, the mother’s relationship with her daughter is well done, and it can be pretty suspenseful at some points. It can also get really creative. For example, there is one scene later on in the film where Nico cuts the electricity to a house, and everything is just pitch-black inside the house where Costa is holding the girl hostage. Everyone is in this black background, and everyone walking around and talking are all simply white outlines. It’s hard to really explain, but it’s a fine example of creative 2D animation. The voice cast does a great job. I know you can say that Marcia Gay Harden has type-casted herself in this role due to her reoccurring role on Law & Order: SVU, but she pulls off being a tough cop and a loving mother. You even get a surprise performance by Angelica Huston, who plays the little girl’s nanny. For me, the performances of the goons, and Steve Blum as Nico steal the show.

 

Now, I can understand if people can’t get into this film’s story because of how simple it is, but for me, I don’t mind a simple plot if you execute it properly. My only real issue/non-issue with the film is that I wish it was longer. I feel like they could have fleshed out the relationship a little more with the mother and daughter, and maybe given a reason why Nico is a thief in the first place. Then again, I think they do execute these elements well, and maybe not dragging the length of the film out is for the better.

A Cat in Paris is an entertaining film. It might be short, and not as complex as some of the other films that GKIDS release, but in the end, it’s good to always have a fun movie to watch. It might be aimed more at a younger audience, but I would rather show A Cat in Paris over a lot of tripe that you see among animated films that are released in theaters. You can watch this on the American Netflix, but if you want to, go buy the Blu-ray/DVD combo to support the company so they can bring over more great films. You know, how about we talk about a Christmas special? I have an idea for one during the week of Christmas, but for now, how about we talk about a little guy known as Ziggy, and his wish with Ziggy’s Gift? Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Rating: Go See It!