johnlink ranks METROPIA (2009)

Stumbled upon this movie on Amazon Prime. Knew absolutely nothing about it. Hadn’t even heard of it. Saw it was listed as sci-fi/animated and it had this poster:


I watched METROPIA (2009) on 6.2.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Very little happens in the first scene of this film. Lasting a few minutes, we meet Roger (voiced by Vincent Gallo) as he talks to his boss. We learn that Roger rides a bike, which is illegal in this world set twenty years in the future. We learn that the subway has connected all of Europe and that Roger is supposed to be riding that. But nothing vital happens. If the first scene was removed we wouldn’t really lose anything. It is almost as if Director Tarik Saleh knows just how¬†odd and jarring his animation is. He is giving us a few minutes to get acclimated, between this and a haunting opening credits sequence, to figure out the kind of world we are in: one where the heads are large, the mouths don’t always move properly, and movement is not fluid.



After that, we get into the story proper. Roger has a nice enough girlfriend (Sofia Helen), but is more infatuated with the girl on a shampoo bottle (Juliette Lewis). Turns out that girl on the shampoo bottle is important. Roger sees her on the subway and follows her. He takes this bold step partly because he has suddenly been experiencing a new voice in his head (Alexander Skarsgard). The details of the story involve that voice, that girl, and the shampoo. If it sounds odd it is a surprisingly simple story which plays out to mostly logical conclusions.

The story isn’t the strength of this film. If this were live action and it contained the exact same plot, METROPIA would be a very forgettable film. The animation, however, makes it quite unforgettable.


After those first few jarring movies the audience can ease into the look of the world. It is never fully comfortable, and that is the point. Everything is dark grays and cold blues and deep blacks with an infrequent oasis of color. This might be depressing, but the story zips along quickly enough to build tension and make us care. When the movie slows down to show us something, it is almost always visually stunning, even if it is not beautiful.

We get villains voiced by the evil sounding Stellan Skarsgard and Udo Kier (whom I will always remember as the rich Ron Camp from ACE VENTURA). They bring an even darker tone to an already dark film. Their characters might be one-dimensional, but they are the rocks that Roger is always just about to dash himself upon.


The sound design is wonderful. People talk in the background in disjointed or dissonant voices. The city crackles with dangerous undertones. Nothing feels safe, nothing feels private. Despite all of that, this is not a depressing movie (surprisingly). The drive of Roger is that he wants to live and wants happiness and, ultimately, wants to get back to his girlfriend. The lesson is in appreciation, even if it takes the movie awhile to get there.

METROPIA is a bit of an oddity, to be sure. But it is an oddity worth seeking out. It’s images will stay with me long after the specifics of the story have faded.



The bonus is for the sound design, discussed above.



~ by johnlink00 on June 3, 2014.

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