Directed by Fritz (M) Lang and photographed by Karl (The Mummy) Freund, Metropolis is a milestone in science fiction film history. It’s not exactly a perfect movie, but its themes are timeless enough. It’s been ripped off countless times and still holds up pretty well even eighty years after its initial release.
In the oppressive future, the rich live in luxurious high rise buildings while the poor workers dwell on the dirty streets below. Maria (Brigitte Helm) is the optimistic leader of the workers who gets kidnapped by a corrupt industrialist who puts his evil robot into Maria’s body. He then sends the bad Maria out to stir up the workers and makes them revolt and destroy the machines, which causes the city to flood and the workers to lose their homes. In the end, the workers resent Maria and burn her up a la Joan of Arc.
Metropolis runs on too long and the movie’s message is a little muddy if you really think about it (it’s hard to tell whether it’s pro-worker or anti-worker). Even though the meat to the story is awfully thin, the special effects and art direction are so stunning that you probably won’t mind. The robot Maria is truly one of the greatest creations of sci-fi cinema and it still looks impressive after all these years. The gigantic sets, the huge machinery and the enormous cityscapes are all visually stunning and the scene where the mad scientist creates the robot version of Maria in his lab is some of the best stuff ever committed to celluloid.
While most of the cast isn’t very impressive, Helm is simply fantastic. She’s awesome playing the “evil” version of Maria and is equally sexy while in the robot suit. That’s one robot I wouldn’t mind banging that’s for sure.