Metropolis Blu-ray Review
A new Ultimate Collector's Edition in a Limited Edition Steelbook-only format
Metropolis Film Review
Almost 90 years later, and Fritz Lang’s classic masterpiece Metropolis is still a powerful, visionary sci-fi film.It's a politically-minded tale of wealthy industrialists ruling over a mega-city Metropolis, whilst a lower class of slave-like workers toil beneath the surface to keep the machinery going to run the city. The story is fashioned from the Old Testament tale of the Tower of Babel, and trades in many more religious tropes as it tells a tale both reflective of the then-state of economic discord in Europe. It's also remarkably prescient with regard to the future-scape that would evolve over the next World War. If that wasn't enough it's also significant even to this day, especially with the increasing disparity between the 1%ers and the rest of the world. Of course, the film is far more than just a symbolic narrative which would strike an accord with many. Indeed, Lang himself was somewhat dissatisfied with the political side of the story.Although he wouldn’t, of course, get to see its arguably more significant retrospective impact, decades, and even the best part of a century later. More impressive is the whole vision behind the piece. Its futuristic art deco cityscape, juxtaposed with some gothic architecture rising within, has influenced everything from Blade Runner to Star Wars, The Matrix to its progenitor, Dark City. You can literally trace its genetic material back through decades of cinematic history. In fact, it’s ironic that its artistry was arguably the most fully perfected element for over three quarters of a century after its production, with the film only recently having been restored to a state in which the narrative flows fluidly – savagely cut and re-edited all those decades back, it took until 2010 to bring this masterwork back to Lang’s original vision.
Blu-ray Picture QualityEureka have already released this title, so many will know what to expect here from the presentation – the video and audio remains the same and, to be honest it couldn’t get much better than the 2010 restoration, which was a painstaking labour of love on the parts of Friedrich-Willhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, which reconstructed the best approximation to Fritz Lang’s original vision that we will ever likely see.
Almost 90 years old, this was never going to look like demo material, and the extra footage sticks out, but it’s undeniably impressive.
The film is presented with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, framed in its original 1.33:1 ratio, which has been polished and primed with meticulous attention to detail, with each frame individually cleaned to remove almost all trace of the damage done during the intervening near-century, and much of the scratches and blemishes now non-existent. Detail remains striking at times, with the black and white images retaining a huge amount of background texturing, depth and layering. Sure, it wavers, with some shots looking softer than others, and, sure, the older 2010-discovered footage can get pretty ropey (it came from an extremely damaged print) but, on the whole, it is a wonder than anything this old could look this good.
As a side note, Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 re-imagining of Metropolis gets a decent, but nowhere near as impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition presentation in 1.33:1 on a second disc. Without the benefits of the 2010 restoration, there would be less of a point of comparison but, if you do, this is more of a flawed curio rather than a full-blown re-vision. Still, the newly-tinted (near-colour) approach, and faster frames-per-second presentation makes it far better than one might have expected from the dated source.
Blu-ray Sound QualityBack in 2010 they also did a full symphony orchestra recording of the original 1927 Gottfried Huppertz score, which was perfectly synched with the film and delivered here in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. It’s a rich and vibrant, driving the piece, delivering impressive dynamic presence and fidelity, and working wonders to bring this vocal-less silent movie to life. One could argue that the near-90-year old score sounds almost as impressive as the similarly-vintage visuals look, but the 2010 re-scoring, using the composer’s original folio, obviously affords the opportunity to have a far better soundtrack than any artificial remastering could have afforded this production. Both the original German intertitles and English subtitles are included.
Surprisingly bombastic, Huppertz’s score, as re-recorded by a modern orchestra, is bold and powerful, driving the movie.
Similarly, on the second disc, Moroder’s own startlingly different 80s-tastic score gets its own DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation. Exchanging the orchestral symphony for electronic beats is initially quite jarring but, eventually finds its footing, and, in my opinion, works quite well. What doesn’t work is the vocal tracks which are gleefully strewn across the soundtrack – Freddie Mercury, Adam Ant, Pat Benatar and Bonnie Tyler, amongst others, date the piece far more than the electronic synth scoring and it would have been much more interesting had Moroder kept up a more Carpenter-esque synth track going throughout. Every time a song kicks in it will take you out of the experience and make you roll your eyes.
Blu-ray ExtrasOn the extras front this new Eureka release boasts a slew of supplements, old and new, and incorporates a second disc which affords us the already-released Giorgio Moroder presents: Metropolis 1984 re-imagining, complete with all the extras that that title’s Blu-ray previously had, including the documentary on Moroder’s restoration and scoring - The Fading Image.
In relation to the restored original Metropolis we get a 2010 documentary by Evangelina Loguerico, Metropolis Refound, which explores the rediscovery of the most complete print of the Fritz Lang masterpiece in an Argentinean film museum. There’s another 2010 retrospective documentary about the film, Die Reise nach Metropolis, and an Audio Commentary by David Kalat and Jonathan Rosenbaum. The disc is rounded off by the 2010 re-release trailer.
Not only does this lavish 2-disc steelbook set come with everything previously available, it features plenty of new material too.
Eureka have also delivered this whole package exclusively within a gorgeous limited edition steelbook complete with their usual excellent Criterion-rivalling booklet, a 56-page effort featuring archival interviews with Fritz Lang, a 1927 review by Luis Bunuel, articles by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Karen Naundorf, and restoration notes by Martin Koerber.
Metropolis Blu-ray VerdictSavagely cut after its 1927 premiere, it took until 2010 for Fritz Lang’s masterpiece, Metropolis, to finally resemble the best possible approximation to his original vision, and actually ride on a narrative that runs fluidly, rather than purely on its visual majesty. Eureka already released this restored version back in 2010, but have elected to re-issue it here, in a steelbook-only format, complete with a whole new selection of extra features, and incorporating the Giorgio Moroder 1984 reworking into the package.
If you’ve never owned Metropolis, then this is the most complete package available and an absolute must-have purchase.
If you already own the masterpiece in its restored form then it’ll be a tougher call. Owning the Moroder version is great for completists, but it is a very dated curio now that we have the full remastered version available, and so it will largely come down to whether or not you want the new extra material. Either way you should definitely own a copy of this film.
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