The Metropolis Remix is here.

Ages ago, we started on an ambitious– perhaps over-ambitious –project: re-scoring all of Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent masterpiece Metropolis with a diverse soundtrack pulled from about 25  years of video games. And now, after much waiting, hard work, complications, and kind of forgetting about it a couple times, it’s finally done. Watch it here, and tell your friends, because we are really proud of this one.

Why did you do this? We love film, and we love games.

Come on. Be more specific.
Well, we also wanted to say something about gaming and its place as an art. Many of the games we used music from– most, in fact –are from the 16-bit era or earlier. These are games that, like Metropolis, are from the infancy of their medium. But, like Metropolis, that didn’t hold them back: games like Final Fantasy VI, Mother 3, and Chrono Trigger tired to tell epic, emotionally-intense, and sweeping stories, while games like Super Metroid use their relatively “primitive” graphics and sound to create an incredibly immersive and mysterious world.

There’s a reason why Metropolis is a legendary film. It’s not just because the special effects still have an impressive scale and awe to them, or because it tells a complex and subtle story (it really, really doesn’t). It’s because, in an era of film defined by its limitations– missing even sound! –Lang recognized those limitations and used the technology at his disposal to make them irrelevant. With black-and-white, low-resolution film, he created a level of grand spectacle that didn’t get surpassed until Star Wars, 50 years later. And that’s what, for their entire history, games have been doing. Game music, for decades, didn’t have orchestras at its disposal– it had between four and eight channels of MIDI synthesizers, and game composers found new types of musical theory, new compositional techniques, and a whole new way to approach musical storytelling that fit both their technological constraints and the demands of their medium.

Why this version of Metropolis?
Wow, you really know your film history. Yes, there’s a few different versions of Metropolis, including one that’s wholly remastered and contains a lot of lost footage. We went with a slightly earlier one for a few reasons. The simplest ones are length (it’s already two hours long and was a huge amount of work as is without adding another half-hour of footage) and to try and be slightly less copyright-infringey (the copyright on Metropolis has always been dodgy– for 50 years it was public domain, Lang’s estate doesn’t see a penny from it now, and we decided to use an earlier cut from when it was public domain rather than the restored version currently being sold).

We also used the older, less complete version because it fit our vision a little better. If we wanted to engage with the film’s legacy, this is the cut to use– for decades it was the most complete and available. It’s similar to the one that Giorgio Moroder released with a pop music soundtrack (one of our inspirations), and, even incomplete, is the one that really represents what Metropolis meant for much of its history. There’s also the irony that, for about 60 years, the film’s original score was considered lost, and the version we used originally had only an adaptation of what remained of the soundtrack. There’s a certain pride to the fact that we’re joining in the long tradition of artists and producers who have re-scored this movie, from Adam Ant to the BBC’s electronics studio.

Were there any songs you used for specific reasons?
It’s not just about the music fitting–there’s a few songs that we picked because of interesting resonances between game and film (the very first piece of music we put in was Sonic 2’s “Metropolis Zone”). Metropolis casts a long shadow, and you can feel its influence in Final Fantasy, Mother 3, and others. Final Fantasy‘s “Shin Ra Theme” and “Magitek Factory” were pieces we’d decided on using before we even knew where they’d fit, and Mother 3‘s “Tragic Reconstruction” and “Natural Killer Cyborg” were such perfect tracks from name alone that we held onto them for weeks until we knew exactly where they needed to be. Similarly, the opportunity to use a System Shock 2 track behind the awakening of the robo-Maria– a near-doppelganger for that game’s SHODAN –was too big a temptation to pass up, as was using the Cyberdemon’s theme from Doom for its programming.

Not to say that there’s not moments where the opposite is the case: Donkey Kong Country is a far cry removed from German Expressionism, but the “Fear Factory” scene in the movie is one of our proudest moments. And while we didn’t have to use Mega Man 2‘s music for the famous “sexy robo-striptease mind control” scene, come on– what were supposed to do, not use Mega Man 2 music?

Is there a cover I can print off and use for the DVDs of this I’m going to make and give to all my friends?
Why yes, wildly-enthusiastic voice, there is!

metro-poster

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