EletiofeThe More People Say 'Megalopolis' Is Unsellable, the More...

The More People Say ‘Megalopolis’ Is Unsellable, the More We Need to See It

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Of all the utterly depressing things printed in the Hollywood trades on any given day, this has got to be among the worst: “It’s so not good, and it was so sad watching it … This is not how Coppola should end his directing career.”

This was in response to an early screening of Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis, a $120 million sci-fi epic that the legendary Godfather director has been trying to make for roughly four decades. The quote, from an unnamed “studio head,” was published in a piece in The Hollywood Reporter positioning the film as the kind of movie no one in the business wants to funnel money into because it (allegedly) doesn’t have box office potential. While that quote was, in journalism parlance, the kicker, the real zinger came in the addendum at the end: “This story has been updated to include that Megalopolis will premiere in Cannes.”

Shot. Chaser.

THR’s piece doesn’t provide the gender of the studio exec quoted, but I’m going to go out on a limb: Sir, what the fuck are you talking about? Even if Megalopolis is two hours and 15 minutes of Adam Driver (yes, he stars) doing paper doll plays, Coppola has survived so much worse. This will not end his career. If anything, quotes like this signal an end of—or at least the massive need for a reboot of—Hollywood.

Earlier this week, Bilge Ebiri wrote a full-throated plea in Vulture, declaring “Hollywood Is Doomed If There’s No Room for Megalopolises.” Matt Zoller Seitz took a slightly different tack, addressing France directly from his desk at RogerEbert.com and begging Cannes Film Festival participants to cheer the film and save the US from itself. Both pointed out that many of Coppola’s films—Bram Stoker’s Dracula, One from the Heart—didn’t fully connect with audiences or critics when they were first released. The latter nearly bankrupted him—right after he mortgaged everything he owned to finance Apocalypse Now, which currently sits, alongside other Coppola films, on the American Film Institute’s top 100 movies of all time.

I’d like to make an entreaty of a different kind: Nerds, assemble. We have a long history of crowdfunding and letter-writing to manifest the projects on which Hollywood has wobbled. Bjo Trimble saved Star Trek. Queer sci-fi, Veronica Mars, The People’s Joker—we’ve raised cash for all of it. Studios don’t think Megalopolis is bankable; it may not appease any streaming service’s algorithm. Who cares. An online petition with enough backing can provide a marketing campaign to rival the multimillion-dollar one Coppola has envisioned. It’s worth a shot,

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

I should say, I haven’t seen Megalopolis, nor can I vouch for its quality. It does feature Shia LaBeouf, which gives pause. But it also has Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel and Aubrey Plaza. Plot details have been scarce, but apparently it’s about a decaying New York-esque city that one idealistic architect (Driver) wants to turn into utopia, even though the city’s mayor (Giancarlo Esposito) stands in his way. “New Rome” is the name of the town, so it’s sure to ignite more Roman Empire discussion. Someone who saw an early screening called it “batshit.” Sounds like a hoot.

Even if Megalopolis turns out to be, air quotes, “bad,” it just might not be palpable in modern cinema. Most of the best sci-fi is confused and confusing. Look at Jupiter Ascending. 2001: A Space Odyssey is mad weird. Also, a classic. Speculative fiction exists as a genre in order to imagine the future. If Coppola, who reportedly began writing the movie in the 1980s and funded it using proceeds from the sale of his wine business, has put all of his chips down on this, it’s a vision worth seeing. As much as I’d love to see an original epic from a brilliant new unknown, if Netflix was willing to take a chance on Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon, someone should do the same with this.

Truly, Francis Ford Coppola likely doesn’t need our help. He’s Francis Ford Coppola. Someone will likely distribute his film. Cannes will probably love it. The writer-director himself said as much this week, telling The Daily Beast that the same thing happened to Apocalypse Now, adding that Megalopolis will “stand the test of time.” Hollywood is out of ideas, so the criticism goes. Thirty years from now, the industry may be relying on AI to write and direct Terminator 10, and Megalopolis will be a cult classic.

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