Sci-Fi Cityscapes

by Brian Eggert

As cosmopolitan epicenters of culture and life, cities brim with activity; but they’re also a petri dish for feelings of isolation and alienation, where the individual is forced to confront themselves and their anonymity amid a massive population. More than any other genre, science-fiction employs the city in symbolic terms—the high-rise structures reaching to the heavens of a utopia or, more often than not, representing the oppressive nature of the dystopian cityscape. In the month of September, Deep Focus Review will feature a number of articles and reviews in which sci-fi cities play a significant thematic and visual role in their respective films. 

The first selection, now in The Definitives, is also the first film of its kind: Fritz Lang’s sci-fi benchmark from 1927, Metropolis. This Silent Era spectacle is immeasurably influential for its stunning imagery; and yet, the film’s problematic history and rather muddled narrative remain a curiosity for such a classic, even in its more recent “complete” form. Also arriving in The Definitives in mid-September is an expansion of my earlier article on Blade Runner (1982), which was first published in 2007. My new, much-needed expansion analysis examines Ridley Scott’s visual sense in greater detail—his capacity to create worlds and demand, through his widely employed symbolism related to the eye, that the world is nothing more than what we perceive it to be.

Throughout the month, you’ll also find reviews for newer films containing sci-fi cities. Terry Gilliam’s latest, The Zero Theorem, is now available on various VOD platforms and arrives in a limited theatrical release on September 19. It features a city of the Digital Age that looks like the modernization of Gilliam’s dystopia in Brazil. The Hollywood adaptation of the young adult novel The Maze Runner opens on the 19th as well, and boasts a maneuvering city of death in which the characters are trapped.

Beyond the new content coming this month, there’s also a wealth of material currently available on DFR containing—though not necessarily about—sci-fi cities: A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Brazil, Dark City, Dredd, Minority Report, and others. Be sure to enjoy these and the new articles coming in the month of September.


September's Featured Discs