Tribeca 2010 Film Festival Reviews: Metropia

Ever hear voices inside your head and wonder where they’re coming from? Have long, inner dialogues with yourself over whether your girlfriend or company is trustworthy? Follow beautiful blonde women through train stations and into secured government buildings under the guise of returning a lost package? Yeah, me neither, but Roger, star of Tarik Saleh’s Metropia, sees no problem with any of these. Faced with life in an alternate future where all of Western Europe is united, connected and governed by the owner of an immense transit system named Ivan Bahn, Roger drags through life in a state of constant paranoia, unsure of his fear’s source but adamant in the belief that everyone around him is plotting his demise. Unfortunately, the pace and writing of the film doesn’t quite keep with its protagonist’s mood; long stretches of droll dialogue are delivered in a flat monotone, lending Metropia the voice of a relaxed Yoga instructor rather than anything Orwellian. Though its premise sounds promising, the whole thing— from its over-written dialogue, dark dystopian slant, or comically stereotypical characters—feels lazily thrown together by some new age anarchists in their mother’s basement.

Shortly after setting off for work one day, Roger notices a beautiful woman on his train who resembles the woman on his shampoo bottle at home. Intrigued by this similarity, he follows her for reasons entirely unknown. Though this occurs only ten minutes into the movie, Roger has already experienced several conversations with himself, stared longingly at his shampoo bottle for unnatural amounts of time, and exposed himself as suffering from anxiety that even Woody Allen would be ashamed of. In a word, he’s creepy. Shortly after following the woman into a government complex, he hands her the bag she misplaced on their train, and the two quickly set off on a secret mission that will both expose and destroy the transit company’s crippling grasp over their country. Metropia’s future is—surprise—riddled with darkness, scummy undergrounds, and large, oddly shaped glass buildings. It’s every bit the typical dystopia we’ve seen in everything from Blade Runner to Repo Men, although it’s geographically centered in Western Europe this time rather than namelessly thrust into the world. This is probably because the film is made by Europeans, and likewise suffers from European stereotypes. For instance, the Texan, a man who appears at the transit authority meeting which Roger sneaks into, is the only American represented in the film; he’s fat, poorly-spoken, has ratty teeth, and makes faces and gestures strikingly similar to former president George W. Bush. Later, a nameless business man appears, brick-bodied and bald-head, walking in a way that causes his body and jowls to sway back and forth like a mindless watchdog. The evil leader, Mr Bahn, even turns out to have an incredibly hot and manipulative daughter—the same woman who, spoiler ahead, Roger has been following! This play-by-the-numbers dystopia bullshit is getting old; there’s as much imagination in this film as there is on a Bazooka Joe wrapper.

No, really, Americans all wear gallon hats and have sunken, crazy eyes. We're grumbly too.

Metropia’s story, voice-acting, and character design aren’t the only lamentable things in this crapfest; its character animation is awful. When characters talk, their mouths often move independent of facial muscles or bones. Eyebrows raise free of other muscles. It’s as if the faces were quickly laid over blank heads at the last minute—that the animators didn’t see it necessary to reshape the skulls to reflect motion. This creates a sort of nightmarish effect that appears more like muscular twitches rather than fluid animation, and is noticeably jarring to the eye. Honestly, I can’t recommend this movie for anyone. Well-crafted Orwellian futures are indeed rare in cinema, but this one isn’t well-crafted, nor does it feel particularly unique. There are better dystopian movies to watch that are more mature and better-written—check those out instead.


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