They don't make them like they used to, eh? Not so when it comes to Metropolis - the influence of Fritz Lang's 1927 German Expressionism classic from the silent cinema era can be seen in any contemporary science-fiction movie today: the expansive sets and cityscapes of Bladerunner, Dark City, Brazil, I, Robot, The Matrix, Akira and Star Wars (this entire review would be a list so I'll cut it there) are just a few indebted to Metropolis. Even if you haven't had the joy of seeing it, you'll be familiar with the mad-scientist-in-the-laboratory-with-the-zingy-towers-thing. But when a review talks about sets and whatnot that must mean the story is pants, right? Again, not so. With the newly restored print, along with 25 or so minutes of footage that were previously thought lost forever, there's enough going on here for three movies.
Set in a dystopian future, the mega city of Metropolis is a city cut into two. Up top are the ruling class that enjoy the pleasures that the city, run by Joh Frederson (Abel), provide. Below the surface, however, lurks a nightmarish beehive where workers toil themselves to death to keep the city's occupants in the life they're accustomed to. When Frederson's son, Freder (Frohlich), ventures below he discovers the secret horror of Metropolis and plans to do something about it. Meanwhile, mad scientist Rotwang (Klein-Rogge), once a love rival of Frederson's for his now-deceased wife Hel, has created a 'man-machine' and hopes to give it the appearance of Hel. He plans to teach the man-machine to destroy the city... But don't go thinking he's a good guy.
I'm skimming here, as the plot for Metropolis, like the city itself, exists in layers upon layers. What the restored version does is fill in the gaps of the story that the original sorely missed (Lang himself wasn't a fan of the original release: "I thought it was silly and stupid") and it tidies up the look of the film. Sure, some of it still looks grainy and scratchy in places, but in others it looks perfect. It's a potential bum-numbing ride at two-and-a-half hours but Lang's vision takes the viewer down darkened corridors where suspense, intrigue and horror skulk around every corner. The restored score by Gottfried Huppertz is also a delight.
I don't want to call Metropolis 'awesome' as the word has been devalued of late (I overheard a take-away patron describe his bacon cheese burger as 'awesome') but this version of the film is nothing short of a film-making experience, and how often can you say that these days?