- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
The other animated feature worth catching this month is for grownups only, and it may prove harder to find.
In the crowded, advanced, multi-layered city of Metropolis, the President is slowly losing power to an ambitious and deceitful man called Duke Red. The Duke plans to control the world using technological weapons that cause sunspot activity and threaten the earth with dangerous levels of radiation. At the same time, he employs a scientist to create a super-being—a robot girl named Tima—who will sit on a throne atop the city's tallest tower, the Ziggurat. When the Duke's jealous son tries to assassinate Tima, a kind-hearted journalist named Kinichi rescues her, and the two strike up an unlikely but touching romance.
Ted Baehr (
Doug Cummings (Chiaroscuro), on the other hand, finds a lot of sense in the story as he compares it to the 1927
Lang's film was a thinly-disguised biblical allegory involving a city ruler (
While the more recent animated film shares many of Lang's basic narrative setups (a city ruler hopes to unite the city's factions through an "anointed" being), its differences are noteworthy. The next 73 years of the 20th century suggested to many that technological utopias were quite possibly wholly unattainable, and because Japan is the only country to have experienced a nuclear bombardment, it's no surprise that much of its science fiction questions the integration of body, soul, and technology. Tezuka's Metropolis (directed by Rin Taro) may have a 'head,' but its son is a militant killer, its 'heart' is a naive kid who is in over his head, and its 'hands' are an assortments of abused machines and robots just waiting to malfunction. Nevertheless, the ruler decides an advanced robot fused with human emotions just might be the answer to all his problems, but the mixture of unchecked power, a lack of identity, and psychological vulnerability only spells certain annihilation.
The film strips the original narrative of its Christian allegorical basis and reformulates its various parts to emphasize humanity's tenuous grasp on technology. The mounting chaos is brought to colorful life through a pastiche of visually elaborate backgrounds against simple caricatures, Japanese social settings to a score comprised of big band jazz numbers, future visions with touches of the 1940s, and cyberpunk ideas conveyed through retro, saucer-eyed faces. Nothing in the film seems to entirely match-up, making everything anachronistic. It's as if the animators themselves cannot contain the world in one aesthetic, but pile on a hodgepodge of styles and voices too numerous to unify, overwhelming the film with its lack of a fixed identity. Beautifully drawn and consistently entertaining, the film nevertheless feels like a massive technological experiment in search of a unified perspective—which is exactly its point, of course.