Generally when a movie is created solely out of CGI animation, you expect it to be part of the action/adventure genre. Metropia, however, completely defies that expectation with its sole focus on character drama as it delves into a view of a dystopian future post-economic collapse. It’s not exactly the apocalypse, but humanity is a cynical shadow of its formal self as depicted by a world dominated by various shades of gray. Taking several noticeable cues from the dystopian classic “1984,” the future is not only bleak – but very watchful.
METROPIA takes place in a not-so-distant but terrifying Europe of the future. The world is running out of oil and the underground train systems have been connected, creating a gigantic subway network beneath Europe. In a suburb of Stockholm, Roger (Vincent Gallo, Buffalo ’66) tries to stay away from the underground because every time he enters, he hears a stranger’s voice in his head. Is someone trying to control him? To help him escape the disturbing web of the Metro, he looks to the mysterious Nina (Juliette Lewis, Whip It) but the further they travel, the deeper he’s involved in a dark conspiracy. This star-studded, “technically innovative” (The New York Times) animated sci-fi thriller also features Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood), Stellan Skarsgård (Mamma Mia!) and Udo Kier (Shadow of the Vampire).
Taking no time to set up the world in which we’ll be exploring as the movie goes on, we’re immediately introduced to our main character, Roger (voiced by Vincent Gallo) and are only introduced to the world as he lazily survives within it. The movie, being focused around this brief part of his life, doesn’t branch out from him often nor does it really do much with the rest of the limited cast. The only other character that really gets any sort of depth aside from Roger is his depressed girlfriend, Anna (voiced by Sofia Helin). Oddly, the longest scene that involves Anna actually features very little voice acting, and instead she mostly loafs around the apartment wearing only panties. Her nude breasts are very prominently on display throughout this entire scene, which was not expected at all given the premise of the movie.
The only other character to really be given focus is the ambiguous Nina, voiced by Juliette Lewis. Her character, though featured frequently for the latter hour of the movie, remains surrounded in mystery to the very end as it remains difficult to tell if she’s a protagonist or an antagonist. We see frequent evidence of her lying to Roger, but the end result of them doesn’t turn out any different than rooting for an oppressed people in any other movie. This actually makes her the best part of the movie as Roger and Anna feel nearly like an entirely different story mixed in which frequently results in the movie losing its pace and simply not feeling right.
The main staple of the movie, the animation, is done fairly well but in a style that may not be liked by some. It’s meant to focus mostly on the face so as to thoroughly depict the expressions of the characters throughout the movie, but it mostly fails in that regard. Very few times does this ever really come across since the main character, Roger, is generally dull without much actual reaction to events other than a melancholy gaze. Anna is the only one character that really benefits from this animation due to her limited lines leaving her emotional turmoil to be depicted on the face, but she’s nearly forgotten for the majority of the movie. The animation shows its weakest points when not close in on the faces as the actual movement of the bodies tends to be pretty shoddy, mostly looking like they referenced movement from clumsy marionettes. I suppose that could be a bit of symbolism, however.
Overall, the tone was about as much as I expected, very similar to “1984,” but it differs greatly in its ultimate message. Which Metropia doesn’t really have. It’s full of cynical imagery, an underlying symbolism and a surprising ambiguity that resonates the uncertainty of humanity’s honesty, but overall it just fails to deliver. The main character, Roger, lacks any depth despite being the sole focus of the movie and just makes you incredibly bored with any scene involving him making you hope for more focus on Anna or Nina. Even the unexpected twist at the end doesn’t really matter much, even though it does set up Nina’s ambiguous fate. If you absolutely like glimpses at a dystopian future, or CGI nudity, then I recommend this for a Rental, at best.
New Video brings Metropia to DVD in a standard amaray DVD case. Nothing overly special about the presentation of the film here—no fancy exterior cardboard slipcase and the cover itself looks rather simplistic. Video (1:78.1) and audio (DD5.1) are a solid presentation overall and about what you’d expect from a newly produced film. Extras include:
My Tribeca Story
On the Red Carpet with METROPIA
Two extras that amount to barely over five minutes of run time—hardly worth checking out. As is the film is something that will likely turn off many for the various reasons noted in the above review, but this DVD certainly won’t do anyone any favors as the extras are as bleak as the dystopian future that Metropia paints. Rent It.
Metropia is now available on DVD.
Movie review by Andrew
DVD review by Zach Demeter