They say that variety is the spice of life. In a continuing attempt to embrace that variety here with One Movie | Each Day, I’ve decided to dedicate each Wednesday review to the stranger side of cinema, the type of movies that I’d never normally watch, or, at least, admit to watching, but that I’m kind of secretly glad exist. So, in celebration or in condemnation of the eccentric, the odd, the freaky, the kinky, the ghastly, the freaky, the fearful, the flaky, and the freaky, I now present this, the twenty-seventh edition of Wednesday Weirdness.
Lo how Wednesday Weirdness has fallen on hard times. I haven’t had one of these journeys to the stranger side of cinema that was worthwhile since the fairly fantastic Recursivo back on January 30th. What’s worse, I haven’t rated a feature-length Wednesday Weirdness film as “Worth Seeing” since Killer Klowns from Outer Space set a new low bar for that rating in the middle of December. Sadly, today’s installment isn’t going to be the film that turns the tide.
Today’s movie is Metropia a bizarre animated feature from Sweden that looks unlike anything I’ve seen before, and boasts an impressive cast of voice actors, and an effective sci-fi premise. Unfortunately lazy and erratic pacing, some uninspired performances, and a plot that, well, just doesn’t make any sense, all add up to drag the film down.
The film is animated in a very unique style that blends photo-realism with obvious digital manipulation, to create a sort of intricate but minimalist feel. It looks very much like a natural evolution of something that Terry Gilliam might have animated, but with a realist bent. The whole thing is bleak, with an abundance of shadow, and shades of grey. Color is almost always muted, with the few splashes of vibrancy almost disturbingly out of place. This all contributes to creating and maintaining the mood of the film, and it’s really Metropia’s greatest strength.
The film is set in a near-future where sky-rocketing energy prices, and continued economic recession have resulted in a dire dystopia. In Europe, the monolithic Trexx Company has created a massive underground network, connecting the subways of all of the continent’s major cities into one massive system. Vincent Gallo provides the voice of Roger, an ordinary man from Stockholm who finds himself caught up in a surreal adventure involving a massive mind-control conspiracy. Along the way he’s joined by Nina (Juliette Lewis), a model who’s picture Roger recognizes from his shampoo bottle. He’s also joined by a disturbing voice in his head (Alexander Skarsgård). The plot is confusing, bleak, and intentionally disjointed, but everything seems to point to Trexx and its head, Ralph Parker (Stellan Skarsgård).
There’s plenty to like about the film, its premise is creative and full of promise, and the look of the film does an excellent job of creating a genuine sense of atmosphere throughout the movie. Unfortunately, that look is completely bleak, and depressing, and it’s hard to watch.
The film’s biggest fault is that the story just doesn’t make much sense. The whole voices-in-the-head/mind-control/big-brother thing is a pretty cool sci-fi premise, but it all seems pretty pointless. It isn’t clear why any of this is happening. Roger’s involvement in the whole thing just doesn’t make any sense.
This seems to be reflected in the acting performances. Lewis in particular seems to have no idea what she’s talking about, delivering almost all of Nina’s lines like she’s reciting from a technical manual. This problem isn’t limited to her, it’s just the most prevalent. Gallo seems engaged when talking to Roger’s inner voice, but sounds just as flat and disinterested as Lewis at other times. The rest of the cast really doesn’t do enough to be noteworthy.
The film is undoubtedly an achievement in animation. However, the plot just isn’t compelling enough to remain interesting through the entire running time. The bleak and depressing world of the film, combines with the slipshod writing to create a bunch of characters that I just didn’t care about. This is unfortunate, because at the end of the day if I’m sitting down to watch a film, it’s the characters and the story that matter, and in Metropia both are sorely lacking. For these reasons it’s just Not Worth Seeing.