Michael Allan builds a tower that will reach to the stars...
If you were to ask the average person on the street to name a film which revolutionised science fiction as a genre, they'd probably reply with (the obvious) Star Wars, and perhaps some of Ridley Scott's work, like Alien or Blade Runner. If you were to ask them about literature, no doubt they'd say the books of HG Wells (writer of The Time Machine and War of the Worlds), and some would mention Douglas Adams of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fame.
All those mentioned above are certainly big milestones, and the books of HG Wells did create the template of what we now call science fiction, but if you were going to ask me to say a film which influenced the SciFi genre the most, I would reply with 'Metropolis'.
I was lucky enough to see the newly restored version not too long ago. The 1927 film suffered the process of junking, but, through various different copies of changing quality, has now been largely restored. In the scenes that weren't, the film gave descriptions of what was happening; but enough clips survived to get an overall feel of the original film.
Set in 2026 (just 11 years from now! Wow!) the story follows Freder, the rich son of the city's owner and ruler, who one day discovers the divide of the classes in the city. They have the workers underground, who are barely seen, and the aristocracy, who live a good life. However, the poor have a saviour of sorts in Maria, a woman who uplifts and inspires them. But when the father tries to take control of the city by making a robot copy of Maria, it only strengthens the new movement...
Let's be honest here. While the directing, acting and writing is quite impressive (the actors manage to portray their emotions well, despite the film being silent) the real thing that elevates this movie are the special effects. Simply put, this stuff is amazing. From the model shots of the city to the destruction at the end, or the snappy editing while the males lust over Robot Maria, or even just the scale of some of the scenes - it's incredibly impressive. Considering this was made in 1927, what Fritz Lang managed to create is astonishing.
It's also interesting to analyse this films meaning. It was made in a time of communism, and I think that's really interesting - The workers fighting against oppressive leaders, their cruel treatment...I'm not one to read too far into a film usually, but I definitely think there's something interesting here.
Metropolis is one of the greatest films of the early 20th century. In a time when silent films ruled, when film was only starting to emerge as an art form rather than cheap entertainment, and a time when the masters of filmmaking were making themselves known, this little foreign movie serves as an alternative story to what Hollywood was producing at the time - even though it later went on to change the Hollywood scheme. Of course, you can't be certain, but I would say that if Metropolis was never made, then the blockbusters we have today wouldn't be the same. There'd likely be no George Lucas or Christopher Nolan if it wasn't for Fritz Lang.
Now, I'm not going to lie. At times, I did find myself bored during Metropolis - I prefer talkies to silent films usually, and it was a little long with some of the subplots stretched out far too much (and some of them weren't necessary at all to the plot). However, even though I didn't love it (I did like it - I liked it a LOT) I understand that this film had a HUGE effect.