Megalopolis review: "An indulgent epic that's almost so bad it's good"

(Image: © American Zoetrope)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Almost so bad it’s good, Megalopolis has its moments - if you decide not to take it seriously.

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

Megalopolis had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Here's our review...

The phrase 'vanity project' seems entirely fair when applied to Francis Ford Coppola’s indulgent, self-funded epic, although it’s not without entertainment value. From overblown sci-fi concepts to incest and erections, Megalopolis is a comedy of errors in a more literal sense than may have been intended, despite its many Shakespeare references.

Adam Driver plays Cesar Catilina, an architect in a future that’s inspired by ancient Rome, complete with togas and orgiastic parties (these also owe a debt to legendary New York nightclub Studio 54). Cesar is hellbent on transforming the selfish city into a harmonious community with his inventive and somewhat baffling plans, much to the annoyance of the Mayor (Giancarlo Esposito). 

The mayor’s daughter (Nathalie Emmanuel) falls in with Cesar after he falls out with his mistress, a TV presenter who’s called Wow Platinum and dresses accordingly. She’s played by Aubrey Plaza, who brings a welcome note of camp comedy to the proceedings. Meanwhile, Shia LaBeouf delivers a rather more creepy brand of sexuality as the potential heir to the banking fortune of Hamilton Crassus III (Jon Voight); both these characters have Trump-like qualities.

Lofty ideas and meta references to Coppola suggest that this is a personal ode to his art, and given that the writer/director has worked on it for some 40 years, it’s clearly a passion project. But it is hard to share his reverence for his narrative when the dialogue is mannered to the point of distraction, and each performance seems to come from a different movie. 

Driver is somber and serious as the grieving hero who's looking for salvation, while Nathalie Emmanuel is given little to work with in a character whose contradictions remain unexplored. Other female characters are reduced to the sidelines: this is chiefly about a frustrated male genius whose ambitions people don't always understand. Hmm... 

And yet, viewed indulgently, Megalopolis is intriguing and often diverting, its more outrageous moments inviting comparisons with cult classics like Showgirls. The costumes and sets are enjoyably opulent, and a few stand-out scenes will go down in movie history – most of them involving Aubrey Plaza in a plunging neckline with a wicked glint in her eye. 

Megalopolis' release date is currently TBC. For more upcoming movies, here's our guide to all of the 2024 movie release dates we know about.