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Mr. Robot Creator Sam Esmail is Rebooting Metropolis

Probably less hacktivism, definitely more robots.
By  · Published on December 19th, 2016

Probably less hacktivism, definitely more robots.

According to an exclusive from The Hollywood Reporter, Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail is developing a small-screen adaptation of Fritz Lang’s German Expressionist dystopia Metropolis (1927).

Esmail’s pop-culture fluency and unabashed love of retro film has been well-documented in Mr. Robot. That he would be tapped to re-imagine one of the most celebrated silent films, and a veritable granddaddy of cinematic sci-fi, makes perfect sense. To boot, Metropolissuspicion of capitalism and concern with the impact of industry on the working class are smack dab in Esmail’s wheelhouse.

Alfred Abel as Joh Fredersen (L); Gustav Fröhlich as Freder (R).
It’s still early days, but here’s what THR has picked up: The project is being developed at Universal Cable Productions, and will be executive produced by Esmail and his manager and co-executive producer on Mr. Robot, Chad Hamilton. Esmail is currently in negotiations with UCP regarding the scope of his involvement with Metropolis, which will likely depend on Mr. Robot adhering to its projected four/five season plan. There is currently no word on which network will pick up the project — but fingers crossed for streaming because cable is dead long live cable. Presently the writer’s room is “more of a concept-room” that is less focused on writing scripts so much as determining how to best adapt the film into an episodic miniseries.

Oh ya – it’s also reportedly budgeted at $10 million per episode (roughly the same as Westworld’s pre-production estimates). This is appropriate considering that the O.G. Metropolis was one of the most expensive films of its time; realizing Lang’s vision of a dismal art deco future, putting to film his ambitious sets and groundbreaking special effects, and providing for over 37,000 extras came with a sizeable price tag.

Worth every Reichsmark, baby!
It will be interesting to see what Esmail does with that much financial elbow room and almost a century’s worth of technological advancements since his source material. I’m also keen to see whether or not Esmail chooses to preserve Lang’s aesthetics. Over the years, no doubt in part because of Lang’s Metropolis, art deco has become less a futurist vision than a somewhat tired visual indicator of urban dystopias.

From the report, it looks as though the narrative direction of Esmail’s Metropolis will share structural similarities with, if not completely mirror, Lang’s:

Like the original film, the small-screen adaptation will take place in a future society where wealthy industrialists rule the vast city from high-rise tower complexes, while a lower class of underground-dwelling workers toil constantly to operate the machines that provide its power. Risking everything they know, two star crossed lovers from opposite sides of the divide must find a way to bring down the whole system.

Sadly, Esmail’s Metropolis won’t air for another two to three years, if that. In the meantime, while it’s definitely indulgent and presumptuous as hell to speculate about casting this early in the game (it remains to be seen if Lang’s characters will even carry over)— I absolutely will.

Here is my Metropolis dream cast:

Sophie Turner as The Machine Man/Maria

Playing Maria/False Maria requires a versatility Turner has capably demonstrated on Game of Thrones. She could, I think, compellingly convey this duplicity; both a softness, and a chaotic sensuality.

Steven Yeun as Freder

Yeun is the leading man we need and deserve; he is utterly endearing and believable as a naïve romantic idealist. Plus, his Walking Dead experience would totally come in handy during action scenes (there are big action scenes in a silent film from the 1920s? YOU BET! WORK SAFETY DIDN’T EXIST. IT WAS NUTS).

Ben Mendelsohn as Joh Fredersen

There’s a smarminess to Mendelson’s villains that lends itself perfectly to industrialist bad dad Joh Fredersen; a believable bureaucratic cruelty evidenced in The Dark Knight Rises’ John Daggett, and most recently in Rogue One’s Orson Krennic.

John Lithgow as C.A. Rotwang

On behalf of the small but mighty few who saw and loved Buckaroo Banzai: As a rule, Lithgow must always be your go-to mad scientist. And I have no doubt that he could be as serious as needed; the man’s a goddamn professional.

Idris Elba as Grot

Leader of the working class, foreman of the Heart Machine, and commanding physical presence; Elba, would have a field day with Grot.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.