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Dark Metropolis

Indican Pictures // Unrated // December 14, 2010
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Bill Gibron | posted June 17, 2011 | E-mail the Author
The Product:

It's never good to come in at the middle of a story. Imagine trying to understand The Lord of the Rings with The Two Towers, or Star Wars within a context of The Empire Strikes Back (or worse, Attack of the Clones) alone. Sure, some second acts stand on their own, but for every Dark Knight there's a dozen Matrix Reloadeds. With something like Dark Metropolis, the problem is compounded by the original source. Few have seen Stewart St. John's first installment in what he calls The Creation Wars saga. That film, The Chronicles of Hallow Earth: The Next Race was a low budget indie effort with limited distribution and an even smaller fanbase. It goes without saying that few in the film critic community saw it, which makes going ahead with Part Two, Dark Metropolis, even more foolhardy. Journalists will be wondering what the first feature was all about, while those in the know will probably feel like staying away from this static sequel in droves. Indeed, this is one dull exercise in exposition. For all its outward finery, this film cannot sustain a decent level of outward interest.

The Plot:

After a 300 year long war, the genetically superior race known as the Ghen have practically wiped their inferior human counterparts off the face of the Earth. Residing in an swanky underground city, the ruling order gathers up the surface dwelling survivors and puts them to work in factories and other slave labor positions. A few are even held back for more disturbing and deadly experiments. As part of his campaign for re-election, reigning Ghen leader Crecilius Pryme has urged his elders to allow a mass extermination of the rest of the humans. He is even hunting an "ultimate weapon" which, when discovered, means victory for the Ghen. To guarantee his success, he gets his brother Aiden Pryme assigned to the authoritative Ministers group. These skilled hunters find humans and destroy them with ease. Number One on Aiden's list in a "channeler," a female refugee who claims the ability to talk to the spirits and who offers the human's hope. Crecilius wants her dead, or at the very least, on his side. This makes his mother livid, and she holds a secret that could destroy the Prymes and the Ghen once and for all.

The DVD:

Here's about all you need to know regarding Dark Metropolis - it's great to look at, ludicrous to listen to. In fact, when you learn that its chief architect, Stewart St. John (writer/director) got his start with Hanna-Barbera and then moved on to the far more sophisticated Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, you sense why this entire enterprise is as shallow as a 13 year olds fan fiction. This tale of power run amuck, genocidal clones, familial secrets, and crackpot philosophy is so rife for ridicule that there is only one thing keeping it from turning into a complete fiasco: the production design is first rate. Through a combination of careful framing, first class location scouting, found fixtures, and something lacking from the script itself - imagination - the underworld vistas and on planet places have a fascination, fully realized feel. We almost believe in this fancy future shock - almost - and can't wait to see what Stewart and his cinematographer Seamus Tierney have up their sleeve next. If you were to feast on this movie's eye candy alone, you would probably be more than satisfied. Sure, there are moments of lo-fi awkwardness, but for the most part, this film sells us on its 300 years from now setting.

But the storyline and the acting...SHEESH! This is a tough tandem act to swallow. For their part, the performers are awash in bad costuming (like Interview with a Vampire meets Equilibrium) and even worse make-up. Mascara has never been more meaningless than it is here. Goth kids all across North America are crying in the Cure collections over the misapplication of this around the eye staple. Even worse, it's the only way the Ghen are distinguishable from the humans. Apparently, when you are genetically superior to the rest of the population, you end up looking like a lame leftover from the New Romantic era. No one could successfully pull this look off and yet Dark Metropolis relies on it as a major visual selling point. In fact, some of the cast appear to be relying on this ruse solely to give their character some purpose. As for the script, St. John just can't avoid the obvious. A leader looking to cement his power with fear and false threats? A rebel 'savior' who channels positive spirits and acts as a wannabe messiah? Infighting amongst those who would want to see the end of humanity as we know it and those who see humans as more than mere obstacles? And all of it set within a world of wealth and sophistication that barely registers as real?

If you weren't paying close enough attention, you'd swear that Morpheus was about to show up and offer Neo a chance to ride down the rabbit hole once and for all. Or better yet, Cohagen and Ritcher would arrive, guns blazing, to show Quaid, Kuato, and that Martian gal with three teats what for. Sadly, all Dark Metropolis does is, talk, talk. It talks about the previous plotpoints. It talks about the current issues (or lack thereof). It talks about potential secrets and quasi-cogent political intrigues. It talks about anything it can't show or simulate. Indeed, the only time when Dark Metropolis outwardly acknowledges its limited budget and F/X capacity is when the characters yak about stuff the filmmakers could have clearly shown, had another novice investor coughed up the cash. Even then, one imagines Dark Metropolis reading better than it plays. While it's fine to look at and interesting in inception, it can't crawl past the hamstrung hokiness of its screenplay.

The Video:

As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If Indican Pictures does send a final product version of Dark Metropolis to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Audio:

As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If Indican Pictures does send a final product version of Dark Metropolis to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Extras:

On this check disc version of the DVD, we are treated to two trailers and a Behind the Scenes. Whether they are to be found as part of the final product remains to be seen. Overall, the quality is decent and the additional insight important to understanding what Stewart was/is trying to accomplish.

Final Thoughts:
It's hard to believe that Dark Metropolis would be any better had one seen the original film. In fact, with this much expositional talking in the offing, it's easy to believe in 'boredom' as the overwhelming response. Some might like its low rent futurisms. Others will hit the remote before the first false spectacle. Earning a solid Skip It, there is something to be said about science fiction that's more dog fights and death stars than serious contemplation. Sometimes, ideas override entertainment value. In the case of Dark Metropolis, they almost destroy it completely.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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