Entertainment TV Almost 100 years later, an epic Metropolis remake lands in Victoria
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Almost 100 years later, an epic Metropolis remake lands in Victoria

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The crew at Apple TV+ has announced perhaps its most ambitious project to date: A remake of Fritz Lang’s legendary silent film Metropolis. 

And the eight-part series will be made in Victoria.

Released in 1927, Lang’s Metropolis is known to many as the original science fiction blockbuster, featuring one of the most famous robots in screen history.

The film tells the story of a futuristic dystopia, in which a massive class divide sees the wealthy live in towering skyscrapers, while the underclass slave away in brutal conditions to keep the city above them running. 

In the 95 years since its release, the German expressionist film has been the subject of intense study and worship. So a remake will inevitably attract scrutiny, particularly among sceptical viewers who loathe revivals and reboots. 

Perhaps well aware of the almighty task they face, the people behind the new series are bringing out the big guns. 

Victoria steps up

Metropolis is Victoria’s biggest screen production to date.

The Apple TV+ series will be filmed by NBCUniversal’s Universal Studio Group, alongside its local branch Matchbox Pictures. 

Sam Esmail, the award-winning creator of Mr Robot, will write and direct the eight-part series in its entirety.

Pre-production is penned in for October, with filming to kick off in early 2023, according to the Sydney Morning Herald

Esmail, who will also serve as showrunner and executive producer, has the series Homecoming and Gaslit to his name, both starring Julia Roberts. 

The series will receive grant funding from the Victorian Screen Incentive, via VicScreen (formerly known as Film Victoria), the state’s economic screen and development agency. 

VicScreen said the series is “the first in a pipeline of projects” from NBCUniversal as part of a commitment to inject $416 million into the Victorian economy over the next decade. 

And then there’s the technology behind the series.

The Victorian government will bankroll the construction of “LED Volumes”, contributing $12.5 million to the project in Melbourne’s Docklands, plus another $5 million on top for skills and training.

VicScreen described the LED Volumes as “high-tech digital screens that display background environments and visual effects on set”.

This sort of tech has been used before on series like Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian. 

Once Metropolis wraps, the volumes will remain in place and become available to local and international productions, or budding filmmakers.

VicScreen CEO Caroline Pitcher said Metropolis is slated to be “one of the most technically ambitious screen productions in the world”.

“[It] truly places Melbourne as amongst the world’s great screen production cities.”

The series is expected to create 3980 local jobs, including 500 cast and crew and more than 2400 extras.

Six hundred businesses and service providers will also be part of the production.

The big Apple

After years of Netflix domination, Apple TV+ is fast becoming a major force in the streaming wars.

Not only did it score the top gong at the 94th Academy Awards with CODAbut critics have shared high praise for original series like Pachinko, based on the lauded novel of the same name, and Severance, directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle. 

Apart from Metropolis, Apple’s upcoming titles include Alfonso Cuarón’s thriller series Disclaimer. 

Squid Game breakout star HoYeon Jung has been cast in the series, alongside Australians Cate Blanchett and Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Kevin Kline and Sacha Baron Cohen. 

It’s still early days for Metropolis, so a cast has yet to be announced.

The series is the latest in a growing line of global projects filmed in Victoria, such as Netflix’s Clickbait and sci-fi drama Foe, directed by Victorian Garth Davis and starring Little Women star Saoirse Ronan and Normal People’s Paul Mescal. 

And Michael Gracey, another Victorian, is currently gearing up to film Robbie Williams’ biopic Better Man.