I first saw Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent sci-fi classic Metropolis in a film class in college, which is the kind of setting in which a lot of people probably first encounter it. Movies this old and this revered often end up as historical artifacts more than sources of entertainment, and that’s a shame when a movie is as exciting and creative as Metropolis. Mercilessly pared down during its original release, Metropolis has spent the years since its premiere in varying states of incompleteness, with running times that range from 80 to 120 minutes. Now thanks to footage discovered in Argentina in 2008, there’s a fascinating new restored version of the movie, bringing it up to 145 minutes and including almost everything that was believed lost.
This new cut has played in a handful of cities and will have an exclusive local engagement this weekend at the Sci Fi Center; it’s a must-see for fans of the movie, as well as people who only know it as a historical curiosity. A lot of what sometimes made earlier versions hard to follow has been expanded on and fleshed out, and Lang’s images remain as powerful and striking as ever. The angular expressionist style of Metropolis influenced decades of sci-fi films, and the sheer scope of the world Lang created hasn’t lost any power. The story of rebellion against an oppressive government can be hokey at times, but it’s elegantly told and expertly crafted, something that we can finally see in a form approaching the director’s original vision.