Friday, April 3, 2009

30. Metropolis - 1927

Synopsis: Freder Frederson is a rich guy extraordinaire and son of Joh who is mayor or king or something of Metropolis. One day Maria travels to the well to do section of the city and Freder falls for her. He heads to the depths of Metropolis to Maria and sees the work conditions of the lower class (explosions).

Freder tells his father of this and goes to join the workers. He gets caught up in the revolution Maria is leading against the upper class. Freder, being upper class and sympathetic to the workers, is THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN THE HEAD AND HANDS IS THE HEART!

Joh and mad scientist Rotwang spy on Freder and discover his plan. They decide to disrupt the idea of class unification and equality by making an evil doppleganger Machine-Man of Maria undermine her plans. Maria-bot dances naked by John Mellencamp and incites the workers to violence.

Joh wants the violent revolt so that he can retaliate with violence. He allows the workers to the heart machine where they destroy it causing a flood. Real Maria and Freder save the children while Joh realizes his mistake. Rotwang comes back to kidnap Maria to probably make sweet love to her or some such. He is stopped by Freder who then becomes THE MEDIATOR!

There is also a bunch of religious stuff thrown in for no reason about the Tower of Babel.

Review: I watched the restored version that everyone has seen that runs about two hours. The uncut version found in Argentina (maybe? I don't remember) probably won't be available for a long time while restoration takes place.

Big budget, special effects laden, blockbusters enter the list. It feels insulting to compare Metropolis to the modern day blockbuster but it must be done. The similarities are too prevalent. From bad acting and huge special effects to a reliance on robots and explosions , this is as much a summer blockbuster precursor as Jaws.

The difference between Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Michael Bay's _________ is that Metropolis is worth your time. The other big difference is that people are still talking about Metropolis while most blockbusters last only until the next summer. So, enough of this Armageddon to Metropolis blasphemy.

The highlight of Metropolis, as with most blockbusters (sorry) is it's visuals which more than make up for the overacting and somewhat weak story. The special effects are the main reason this is being discussed as an important film. This is the best looking film thus far on the list. The visuals are much more removed from theater than anything previous. Seeing this
is mind boggling in its complexity for the time. All of those cars are moving. Yes, it's nothing but miniatures and matte paintings for this shot. It's striking as it's the first establishing shot that isn't a camera set up on a street somewhere. It's striking enough that blockbusters (sorry) such as The Fifth Element and the Star Wars prequels clearly owe this one shot. Visually, a lot of movies owe Metropolis quite a bit and I could easily make a post with nothing but comparison pictures (I say easily but I'm not about to go through the trouble of looking for all of the relevant screen captures when I couldn't find a good enough Fifth Element shot online).

The other lasting impression, which predates Metropolis, is the plight of the worker in the future compared to the luxury of the wealthy. For example, the wealthy get to dance around in a garden straight from A Trip To The Moon with their tie tucked into their pants all freaking movie:
Workers spend their days pointing arrows at shifting lights in a more serious take on Modern Times until they pass out from exhaustian:
I know dystopian future, timely as ever and all that. There apparently hasn't been hope for the distant future since the dawn of man but it's especially hopeless here. A shot of the worker's conditions: followed by how it's viewed by the main character:

Again, the visuals make this movie better than its standard--by now anyway--everything else.

Continuing an idea put forth in Mabuse, Lang decided to put a little bit of everything into this movie for no discernable reason other than he could do it. Metropolis feels this way in a truncated form and I can't imagine how much bigger, more epic, it will feel when the general public gets to see the original cut. It's big enough now with thousands of extras and massive sets that I wonder if a shortened version may beneficial.

So, Metropolis is pretty great from a visual standpoint. There is stuff that I had to look up just to figure out how it was done. The influence is still felt today and that's what frightens me. If Metropolis is a worthy addition to this list based primarily on being a special effects, what will people think of Michael Bay and Trasnformers in 80 years?

Final note: This is getting remade and Mario Kassar is producing. That means we'll probably get Roland Emmerich, Paul Verhoeven or Renny Harlin directing. I must admit that, should I suffer through this, Verhoeven's would be the most hilarious and therefore most enjoyable.

Final Score: 10/10

No comments: