Reviews of Metropolis (1925) and related work

Metropolis (1925Text)

Thea von Harbou (writer).

Thinkers live well on top and hordes of manual labourers slave away in the hidden depths of a vast ultramodern city in 2026 CE.

The physical shape of this future world gets more attention than in Lord of the World (1907), where the class struggle has been solved. Like the world of that earlier dystopia, the world of Metropolis is haunted by religion. There are also parallels with We (1924), including the transgressive love story that rekindles humanity in the upper-class protagonist, but Metropolis is more about morality and less about the sociological levers of power in the 20th century or the real 21st century.

References here: “Girl” (1985), The Hunger Games (2012).

text fiction

Metropolis (1927Moving picture, 153 minutes)

Review refers to the 2001 (partly) restored version, after which more footage has been found.

A young thinker awakens to the plight of the workers but is unable to prevent a mad inventor from misleading the masses, channeling their fury by means of an android.

Science fiction, Christian allegory. Melodrama on ginormous sets. Intensely moral, and ideologically suspect. The masses are very easily led and the central problem of the dystopia is identified as a lack of communication between thinkers and workers; a more practical problem than the overspecialization of the classes in The Time Machine (1895). At best, this can be read as a call for greater commingling for empathy, but it looks a lot more like blind faith in the motives of capitalism. Moloch from Cabiria (1914) has a cameo but the occultism is stripped from von Harbou’s plot, which was written for this adaptation.

References here: “The Plane Cabby’s Lucky Day” (1927).

moving picture adaptation fiction

‣‣ Metropolis (2001Moving picture, 108 minutes)

Kawajiri Yoshiaki (key animator, layout artist), Ōtomo Katsuhiro (writer).

Clearly an exercise in style over substance, with a plot (by Ōtomo) even weaker than Lang and von Harbou’s 1927 script. It isn’t based directly on the older film but on a comic. Mediocre steampunk CGI, lax direction by Rintaro. It is nice to see Tezuka’s designs moving so fluidly, but this is no Akira (1988).

moving picture spin-off animation Japanese production fiction