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Theatre / Metropolis

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"The machines are beautiful. Creation of man. They're the strength of the city, they're the heart of the plan..."

John Freeman: I keep on telling you that workers are expendable, my eyes are on the future, I need robots, I need them now.

Metropolis is a musical play based on the 1927 silent film by the same name. It was directed by Jérôme Savary, had a score written by Joe Brooks and Dusty Hughes. The initial cast featured Graham Bickley, Judy Kuhn and BRIAN BLESSED, among others. It was originally performed in 1989 in both Britain and Germany. Since then, it has been staged several times in the United States as well. Joe Brooks commited suicide in 2011 and forbade any more stagings of it after his death. However, the actual rights remained rather murky, and the play has nevertheless continued to be performed even afterwars.

Metropolis, the last city in the world, is a paradise - if you are a member of the upper class, that is. All natural resources have been extinguished, you see. So the city relies on slave labour to keep running. The slaves are locked up in an Underground City where they are forced to work at machines and never even allowed to see the sun. However, the city ruler, John Freeman, is unsatisfied with his workers' lack of effectiveness and plans to have them all replaced by robots. His plans proves to be difficult to accomplish though, due to the efforts of his son, Steven, who does everything he can to improve the workers' conditions, and Maria, the teacher of the workers' children, who Steven has fallen in love with.


Metropolis contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Combines elements from both the Fritz Lang film and the Thea von Harbou novel, both of which were based on the same screenplay.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Rotwang may have been a Tragic Villain who was planning to double-cross Joh Fredersen, but he was still perfectly willing to kidnap an innocent woman, create a robot with her face intended to be used as - among other things - a weapon, implicitly perform black magic and sexually assaulting the woman he kidnapped. (The movie added "trying to destroy an entire city" and "planning to murder two people for something neither of them could help" as well.) Warner, on the other hand, is basically a Punch-Clock Villain who gets Maria delivered to his doorstep by John Freeman (So that he doesn't have to kidnap her.) only intends for Futura to be used as a machinist and gets a Redemption Equals Death moment when he refuses to kill Maria and releases her instead. All occult subtext is also conviniently done away with by the Demythification the story recieves.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Joh Fredersen/John Freeman goes from being The Stoic (With a few Not So Stoic moments.) to being, well, BRIAN BLESSED.
    • Warner however goes completely in the opposite direction, being much calmer and less insane than Rotwang was.
    • Maria is a good, compassionate person in both versions, but she is not as easily frightened or as much of a scream queen as her original counterpart.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Most of the characters have different names than they did in the original story.
    • Freder becomes Steven.
    • Jeremiah is - as mentioned below - based on two seperate characters, both of which had entirely different names.
    • Joh Fredersen is now named John Freeman.
    • Rotwang's name is changed to Warner.
    • Georgy's name is turned into George.
    • Arguably happens to the robot too. Futura was one of the many names Rotwang suggested for her in the book, but he mostly called her Parody. Here, she is only referred to as Futura. (Possibly because it sounds more like an actual name, and fits her "Woman of the future" theme better.)
    • In a minor example, Grot's name is now spelled like Groat.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Joh Fredersen was a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who based his actions on the belief that Utopia Justifies the Means. He was given several Pet the Dog moments and had a Heel Realisation at the end of the story. John Freeman, on the other hand, is a very hammy, sadistic, rather two-dimensional villain who is fond of using Deadly Euphemisms, really appreciates Futura (Unlike Joh Fredersen, who was terrified of her and only used her out of necessity.) and is never redeemed, instead destroying the entire city in a massive murder-suicide act.
    • Groat is willing to cause a flood in order to protect the machines from the workers. In the original story, the flood was caused by the wokers (and Rotwang's robot) destroying the machines. This was one of the reasons why Grot wanted to protect them in the first place. Groat is also portrayed as an abusive Bad Boss, while the only times Grot attacked anyone was when he tried to defend the Heart Machine and himself from an army of workers, and later when he hunted down the people responsible for its' destruction. (Which he belived had killed hundreds of innocent children, including his own daughter.)
  • Adapted Out: September and Joh Fredersen's mother, (who appeared in the book but not in the movie,) Hel and Desertus, (who appeared in the original cut of the film, but later had their scenes removed,) and The Magician, Jan, The Master of Cermonies and Rotwang's servant (who had very small roles in the film) have all been removed from the story.
  • After the End: The setting of the play, especially after the climax.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Zig-Zagged. Futura is a dangerous lunatic, but she is completely loyal to her creators and follow their orders perfectly. However, her actions are too extreme and ultimately does more harm than good for John Freeman, though he is notified of this. The real problem is that he doesn't see the danger and lets her continue uninterrupted.
  • Ascended Extra: The children are given a much larger role than they had in the movie, even getting several lines. (This also happened in the book, though the children's actual scenes are original to the musical.)
    • Downplayed with Futura. Her role is about the same size as her original counterpart's, but she has far more lines here, due to no longer being a Silent Antagonist.
  • Composite Character: Jeremiah has Slim/The Thin Man's role as the Big Bad's right hand man, but his personality is more similar to Josephat's.
  • Crapsack World: Even more so than in the original story, which merely said that Metropolis was the most powerful city in the world, and mentioned that Joh Fredersen kept in touch with other cities such as London and New York. Here, Metropolis is the last remaining city in the entire world, which is implied to have undergone an apocalypse caused by pollution, covering the entire sky in clouds.
  • Darker and Edgier: The original story was already pretty dark, but at least it had a relatively happy and hopeful ending. Here, the situation is far grimmer, but there still seems to be some hope for the future.
  • Death by Adaptation: Originally, Joh Fredersen only knocked Rotwang unconscious and left the house without checking that he was dead. Predictably, he woke up later and returned for a final showdown, where he finally died. John Freeman doesn't make the same mistake, and has Warner shot dead right on the spot.
    • Joh Fredersen also survived the events of his story, but John Freeman isn't as lucky. Instead, he is Driven to Suicide and decides to take the rest of the city with him, killing himself, Jeremiah, and likely most of the residents of Metropolis.
  • Demythification: Most of the religious symbolism and themes from the original story are removed, giving the play a more standard science-fiction plot.
  • Gender Flip: In the book and the film, the machinists were all male. (There were woman living in the workers' city, but it was never shown what duties - if any - they actually had.) Here on the other hand, several of the workers are female.
  • Gone Horribly Right: John Freeman fears that Maria will inspire a rebellion among the workers and has Futura impersonate her in order to discredit her. It works a little too well. The workers hate the new Maria so much that they start to rebel against her instead.
  • Lack of Empathy: John Freeman doesn't care about his workers at all, and actually bemoans that his son has a consience.
  • Not His Sled: It's pretty clear that the play is going to have a different ending than the film/book when Warner gets shot. Later, the plot diverts even further from the original story by having John Freeman kill himself and destroy his own city while most of the workers die in a flood caused by Groat, making it impossible for the original ending to play out. This also means that the story's original message of uniting the different classes of society is completely removed.
  • Reality Ensues: Unlike the movie, where both Maria and Georgy pretty much trusted Freder immediately, this play forces has their counterparts initially distrusting Steven, meaning that he has to work to earn their trust. Even after Maria realises that he is trustworthy and falls in love with him, she is still not entirely happy about the situation.
    Maria: "How can we speak words of love? You should be my enemy. And we both know I'm a victim of your father's tyranny."
  • Redemption Equals Death: Warner decides to not kill Maria and instead release her, which John Freeman has him executed for.
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Warner plays this trope more straight than Rotwang did.
  • Robotic Psychopath: Who else but Futura?
    Futura: "All this chaos, isn't it fine? This destruction is divine! Who gives a damn? Burn in Hell! I love the burning, I love the smell!"
  • Shout-Out: Futura is killed by being burned alive in an oven, much like another famous German witch.
  • We Will Use Manual Labour in the Future: The play tries to justify this by moving the story to an After the End setting where no other sources of energy exist. Though this raises the question of what the robots John Freeman plans to replace his workers with will be powered by.
  • Would Hurt a Child: While Rotwang's robot was already willing to cause a flood which threatened to kill the workers' children, Futura goes one step further by actually trying to kill a child herself.


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