Megalopolis Review

REVIEW: Megalopolis

Megalopolis exists. A film that renowned filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola has been trying to make for a rumoured 40 years, beset time and time again by delays and budgetary confinements, it finally got its world premiere at the recent 2024 Cannes Film Festival.

Was it met with rounds of applause, a final victory lap for a game-changing cinema maker? Unfortunately, no. Yet, for this open-minded viewer, I couldn’t help but enjoy every moment, even if it seemed I was the only person at the festival to think so.

So where do we begin? Set in an alternate future, our films inhabitants live in New Rome, a metropolis on the brink of collapse. As different parties vie for control, Cesar Catalina (Adam Driver) dreams of rebuilding the city as a sustainable utopia, much to the chagrin of Mayor Franklin Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito). Torn between the pair is Julia, Cicero’s daughter (Nathalie Emmanuel) who seeks to find her place in the world independent of her father’s influence. Except, there’s also about 100 other things happening. Catalina can control time, sometimes. There’s an elite family who control the banks, but they also hate each other, but are also all fucking each other? And then there’s Aubrey Plaza, playing a deliciously camp TV presenter. Oh, and there’s some stuff with a magical element, some things about virginal celebrities, a song or two. There’s a LOT going on in this film.

Megalopolis Review

Despite the convoluted plots that are often tied in knots over each other, I couldn’t help but find the whole film a Shakespearean delight. Tongue-in-cheek dialogue, epic monologues, hilarious comeuppances, various storylines play out like that of the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This combined with the gorgeous Roman and Greek imagery that combines new and old symbolism throughout the city structures had me thinking mostly of Bad Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. Much like in that film, here in Megalopolis it is the supporting cast who are clearly having the time of their life, chewing up scenery, swanning around in elaborate and exquisite costuming and delivering biting lines with a smirk.

There is a fair use of CGI in the film, which at times can be off-putting, even jarring, yet when the film uses its sets, it’s able to play in the theatrics of the whole saga. Clever use of camera, daring editing and well-chosen sound make sections of the film, such as Adam Drivers circus-esque breakdown at an engagement party, far more interesting and compelling than the majority of big screen blockbusters we so regularly receive as audiences.

Yes, Megalopolis is at times a narrative mess, and I’m still not entirely sure of the full message it was trying to sell. But much like with the awkward CGI, if you allow the film to fully envelop you and go along for the ride, it’s a wonderful time at the movies in a way we don’t get treated to as audiences anymore.

I would far rather watch a flawed piece of work from a visionary creator than a perfunctory piece of content. For these reasons, I urge you to head down to the cinema when Megalopolis is released, maybe buy yourself a little drink, and just let yourself go to the audacity of Coppola’s latest folly.

Where to Watch

Megalopolis | September 2024 (France) 7


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