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‘Epic’ or a ‘mess’? Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Megalopolis’ divides critics after Cannes premiere

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The first reactions to Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis are pouring in, and whether viewers loved or hated it, the premiere was certainly a cinematic event to remember.

On Thursday, some lucky attendees of the Cannes Film Festival were first to see the legendary filmmaker’s return to directing after a 14-year hiatus. The premiere marks the fruition of a years-long passion project for Coppola, who first conceived the idea for Megalopolis in 1977.

According to its official synopsis, the film is “a Roman Epic fable set in an imagined Modern America.” Adam Driver stars as Cesar Catalina, an architect who, after an accident destroys a New York City-esque metropolis, works to rebuild it as a sustainable utopia. But his endeavors are challenged by corrupt mayor Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), who would rather stick to the status quo. Nathalie Emmanuel stars as his daughter Julia, who comes between the two men. 

Megalopolis’s starry cast also includes Aubrey Plaza, Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Jon Voight, Talia Shire, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Schwartzman, and Dustin Hoffman.

So, were critics blown away by the film that’s been over 40 years in the making?

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Cesar Catalina (Adam Driver) and Julia Cicero (Nathalie Emmanuel) in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Megalopolis.’.

American Zoetrope / Megalopolis / Mihai Malaimare


The early reactions to Megalopolis are mixed, with some hailing Coppola’s latest as “moving” and “epic,” while others are dubbing the sci-fi film a “mess.”

“First hour was a disaster, an endearing disaster but still poor,” wrote critic Robert Daniels. “Then the second hour hit; I totally bought in. Much doesn’t work in Francis Ford Coppola’s passion project, but its visual language is sharp.”

The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney was similarly mixed in his feelings on the film: “Francis Ford Coppola’s passion project MEGALOPOLIS is a lot of movie, much of it quite bad. But you have to respect the staggering ambition of this epic folly, a mashup of the Roman Empire with modern day New York in chaos.”

Indiewire film critic David Ehrlich leaned more positively, writing, “The silliness is a feature, not a bug! A garish, epic, & utterly singular $120 million self-portrait that’s also a fable about the fall of ancient Rome & a plea to save our civilization (and its cinema) from itself. Big fan.” Said L.A. Times’ Matt Brennan, “‘Megalopolis’ genuinely moved me. It reads as a closing statement from one of the cinema’s greatest artists.” His colleague Joshua Rothkopf added, “I thrilled to Megalopolis in all its overstuffed, crazy ambition… It’s definitely not boring.”

Critic Jason Gorber compared the film to Damien Chazelle‘s Babylon, writing, “Part fever dream, part exercise in indulgence, not since BABYLON has such bonkers boldness been birthed, here reared without any pesky studio help.” Other critics were less taken by Coppola’s vision.

DiscussingFilm’s Yasmine Kandil called the Megalopolis “truly insufferable on so many levels” but praised Plaza’s performance, calling her “the only redeeming quality.” Critic Lex Briscuso called the film “self-indulgent, cheesy, and honestly a whole mess,” adding, “The concepts and ideas are archaic. the heavy-handed dialogue feels spit out of an AI generator. the fun ambitious visuals don’t save it.”

Speaking of the visuals, critic Guy Lodge wrote, “MEGALOPOLIS: I love me a folly, but a *grand* folly. Mainly saddened by how cramped and unpopulated and weirdly inexpensive this feels.” Writer Luke Hearfield agreed, musing in his take, “I left it feeling totally discombobulated and bewildered by it. How does a 120M movie look this cheap?” Hearfield also called out Plaza and Driver’s performances, but ultimately found the film hard to digest: “I am lost for words with Megalopolis. If Coppola is happy with it then I guess that’s something?”

Read on for more social media reactions to Megalopolis, which is expected to hit theaters later this year.

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