The city of Metropolis is divided into the brain and the hands. While the city's elite sit in the lap of luxury, the workers tend to the machinery for ten hours before retreating to their underground city "where they belong". The one thing that keeps them from revolting is the promise of a coming "mediator", a Messianic figure who will bring the hands and the brain together. The prophetic woman (Brigitte Helm) behind the legend believes the mediator to be Freder Frederson (Gustav Fröhlich), the son of the city's leader, who thanks to a deft switch with one of the workers, stumbles upon the meeting in the catacombs. Meanwhile, his father (Alfred Abel) is in cahoots with a mad scientist (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) to create a life-like Machine Man to undermine the woman's message. The Machine manages to incite a riot, which endangers the worker's children. And who is there to save the day? Look up there! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's...uh, Freder Frederson.
When we finally get the hang of this time-travel thing, one of the first orders of business should be to go to 1927 Germany and grab a completed print of Metropolis. Due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, over a quarter of the film is lost and gone forever. So instead of Fritz Lang's original vision, what we're left with is most of it and title cards that explain what we're missing. It's a damn shame too, because we seem to be missing a lot of good stuff, including an entire trip to the entertainment district by the worker who's switched places with Freder. There aren't many films that could survive the loss of that much footage and still be a viable experience, it's just too much to overcome, but Metropolis manages somehow. As it now stands, the film is nothing short of amazing and we can only imagine how much better it was in its entirety. Really, with the amount of space here we can only scratch the surface. Lang's Metropolis is thrilling in every sense of the word. This is the standard on which all science fiction should be judged, and serves as the template for many a sci-fi worldview.