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Welcome to Europe, 2024. The sky is gray and the streets are barren, but below the surface is a thriving subway system connecting the continent controlled entirely by Trexx Corp. Roger (voiced by Vincent Gallo) is a self-proclaimed normal guy. Perhaps this is just because he’s got a dull desk job at call center and is rather plain looking, because deep down Roger is far from normal; he suffers from a severe case of paranoia. While the masses opt to ride the Metro to work, Roger uses a bike so as to avoid the system he suspects to be part of some sort of conspiracy.
Upon finding his transportation mangled, Roger has no choice but to descend into the depths of the Metro. That's when we discover another curious feature about Roger, which isn’t actually Roger at all, it’s the voice inside his head. While mind chatting with his new head case, he spots the gorgeous girl from a popular shampoo ad, Nina (Juliette Lewis). The two get to talking and Roger quickly discovers that Nina isn’t just a pretty face claiming to rid you of your dandruff.
Maybe I’m spoiled by the bright and lovable creations of Pixar and DreamWorks, but the animated characters of Metropia are more disconcerting than the plot. They’re primarily shades of grey, show little emotion and walk as though they’re stubbing their toe with every step. What makes them impossible to connect to is that their mouths barely move. The voice work is what breathes some life into this gloomy and despondent film. If only the characters looked like they meant what they were saying, let alone show the slightest bit of a facial expression.
Perhaps additional emotion would have made the plot progression clearer. Metropia is packed with twists and turns that have the potential to be intriguing, but aren’t the least bit enthralling. The problem begins with the detachment from the characters and festers into frustration over the increasingly convoluted storyline. Even with a runtime of just 80 minutes, Metropia has tons of fat that could be trimmed, particularly unnecessarily long pauses and the players’ inability to just get to the point. Director Tarik Saleh tries too hard to be dark and mysterious and obscures the main point in the process, making the film plain old boring.
Despite these gripes, there will be sinister fantasy enthusiasts out there who’ll revel in Saleh’s bold effort. For the rest, there’s little enjoyment to be had, but the impressive animation technique and underlying message still thrives. Metropia leaves you with the concern that someone could be watching you, and that the thoughts in your head might not be your own. For all you know, I could be writing this review under the influence of a menacing corporation of Metropia. But if that were the case, this would actually be a positive review.
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