At first blush, "Metropia" offers a visually fresh animated look at a near-future dystopia, but the film ultimately disappoints, ending up almost as drab and lifeless as the world in which its characters live.
Roger (voiced by Vincent Gallo) is a telemarketer who lives with his girlfriend and breaks the law every day by bicycling to work. He soon begins hearing voices in his head, ultimately managing to write down the address the voice gives one day while ordering a pizza for delivery.
Soon Roger finds himself on the trail of a mind-control plot, with the daughter of a powerful industrialist, Anna, (voiced by Juliette Lewis) acting as guide and seductress, winding up at the heart of yet another plot to overthrow the New World Order.
The voice inside Roger's head turns out to be Ralph (Alexander Sarsgard giving the best reading of all the cast members), a workaday mope whose job is to monitor Roger's every move and nudge him in one direction or another towards ends that are never made clear.
The push-pull between Roger and Ralph is the most interesting dynamic at work in the film, so naturally it's given short shrift. Too much of the story is spent following a fairly paint-by-numbers "Big Brother" plot that never takes an new turn or reach any new conclusions.
The sepia-toned rendering of the world Roger and friends live is attention-grabbing, but as the film wears on, its magic wears off. While it's true that the faces that are embedded into the animation are beautifully expressive and lifelike, the characters' movements prove to be limited, looking as much as anything like the Supermarionation that brought "Thunderbirds" to life more than 40 years ago.
"Metropia" is reasonably smart, thoughtful and well-intentioned, but it lacks warmth, humor or anything truly new to say about the nightmare we're all hurtling towards.