Generally favorable reviews - based on 18 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 18
  2. Negative: 0 out of 18

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Sep 21, 2012
    The oddly beautiful documentary made by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Gray is subtler and richer than its blunt title suggests.
  2. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Oct 5, 2012
    It is a striking and moving study of "what was" versus "what it has become" as the filmmakers try to get at the whys.
  3. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Sep 26, 2012
    This documentary film, about the deconstruction of a great American city, is surprisingly lyrical and often very moving.
  4. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Sep 6, 2012
    What the movie captures overall looks like a scene from a sci-fi, postapocalyptic nightmare.
  5. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Sep 4, 2012
    Imagine if Frederick Wiseman and David Lynch had a bastard child, and you'll get a sense of the movie's off-kilter aesthetic, a potent and pointed mix of firsthand observation and surreal flights of fancy.
  6. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Sep 21, 2012
    That Detropia won't be just another well-reported urban obituary is clear from the film's arresting opening moments.
  7. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Sep 19, 2012
    Detropia offers no solution to this crisis, and indeed there may be none. This documentary is more eulogy and elegy.
  8. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Sep 6, 2012
    The whole experience is one long rant in radiant colors.
  9. Reviewed by: Sam Adams
    Sep 5, 2012
    The movie's attempt to position Detroit as the canary in the coal mine - there but for the grace of God goes any other city - falls flat, but it isn't a fatal flaw. It might not happen in any city, but for it to happen to one is bad enough.
  10. Arizona Republic
    Reviewed by: Barbara VanDenburgh
    Nov 6, 2012
    Despite its emotional coldness, the film still manages to end on a note of something like hope.
  11. Reviewed by: Jeannette Catsoulis
    Sep 9, 2012
    In this visual caress of postindustrial blight, disintegration has never looked so gorgeous.
  12. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Sep 19, 2012
    The title is an imagined word to describe a hard-to-imagine (but very real) place. Combine "Detroit" and "dystopia" (the opposite of utopia) and Detropia is what you get.
  13. Reviewed by: Karina Longworth
    Sep 4, 2012
    The filmmakers pay elegy to the Detroit of the Motown era, with its thriving middle class supported by manufacturing. At the same time, they're honest about the fact that the version of Detroit local partisans yearn for is long gone and most likely not coming back.
  14. Reviewed by: David Lewis
    Sep 27, 2012
    We are left to ponder whether this nightmare might be a harbinger of America's economic prospects. And that is a scary thought indeed.
  15. Reviewed by: John DeFore
    Sep 4, 2012
    More impressionistic than enlightening, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's Detropia introduces us to some interesting citizens of Detroit and gives them a welcome opportunity to speak for themselves, but reveals little we don't already know.
  16. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey
    Sep 4, 2012
    Among several recent documentaries about Detroit, the elegiac Detropia is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing, if not the most informative or insightful.
  17. Reviewed by: Jesse Cataldo
    Sep 4, 2012
    Seems to be looking for answers, but the ones it finds are too close to the surface to be satisfying.
  18. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Nov 30, 2012
    One only wishes that Ewing and Grady had chosen to dig deeper as they explored it.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 7 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 3
  2. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Jan 25, 2013
    I read an article not long ago that cited the TruTV program Hardcore Pawn as one of the biggest boons to Detroit's failing economy in a longI read an article not long ago that cited the TruTV program Hardcore Pawn as one of the biggest boons to Detroit's failing economy in a long time. The pawn shop depicted in the show, American Jewelry and Loan, located in the 8 Mile, has become famous in the town of Detroit and has become a notable tourist attraction, receiving hundreds of customers a day. I can't help but find it somewhat depressing that one of the town's biggest economic successes in recent times is thanks to an exploitative, unsubstantial Television program with almost no redeeming merits when it used to not need any assistance because of its unstoppable job growth thanks to its many factories.

    Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's new documentary Detropia opens with a frightening statistic; in 1930, Detroit, often labeled "Motor City," was the country's most booming city because of its auto industry and manufacturing plants all across its land. Today, it is one of the fastest declining cities with over 100,000 vacated homes and lots. Its economy is in shambles, its townspeople exhausted and underpaid, and overall appearance mirroring that of a desolate wasteland. Clint Eastwood starred in a Super Bowl commercial about two years ago that informed citizens of the world that it's only halftime in America and our second half was to begin shortly. Tell that to the locals in Detroit who, in 2013, still, are waiting for the buzzer to go off and for the game to resume.

    "We're not in a recession, we're in a depression," says retired public school teacher Tommy Stephens, now owner of the Raven Lounge in Detroit. "They're just not saying it cause it would scare the American people." I would've loved to have this man as a teacher for any subject. He is one of the most friendly, charismatic, and intelligent documentary figures in recent memory and his final scene where he discusses the greatness of capitalism, yet recognizing its unfair treatment and exploitation of the poor is terrifically compelling. Stephens later attends a car show where he himself is being taught about how China can make an electric car appearing more stable than an American-made car for $20,000 and America makes and sells one for around $41,000. He informs the gentleman selling the $41,000 car, who is anything but happy. It is then he and we, as the audience, realize that the future may be outsourcing, but then where does that leave the United States? Looking like the metropolitan area of Detroit, I suppose.

    We are not given a central moral or theme in the film, but we do not need one. We have been bombarded with news about the economic standing of Detroit for several years now that we have subconsciously blamed whoever we feel responsible, rather it be the political left, right, the town's mayor, the unions, the townspeople, whoever. Ewing and Grady aren't here to give us a moral but a somber experience with little light at the end of the tunnel. We focus on various townspeople in Detroit, including a stressed and frustrated union manager whose American Axle plant has just been closed, townspeople who sit on their porch and mock all efforts of the politicians who are trying to bring Detroit back to its roots, a Vlogger on Youtube named Crystal Starr who attends many town hall meetings and explores the ruins of the town (she goes into an empty building and looks out at the desolation that has consumed the entire town and tells us, "this place used to be bangin'"), and even the mayor, Dave Bing, who is completely at a loss, unable to cope with the ruins of the town or the immense decrease in population. He proposes solutions, like relocating people to replace some of the urbanization with farmland, to which many people are understandably disgusted at. It's the unwillingness to input change and the unwillingness to carry out change that is ruining Detroit, yet where do you go and what do you do when you're bankrupt and desperate?

    Had it not been for the narration and statistics, I would've went out and assumed this was a film done by the filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, whose Titicut Follies I don't hesitate to call one of the finest American films ever made. The filmmakers do not put us in a position to judge, blame, or accuse, but simply give us an unbiased, objective look at the guttural decay and hopelessness Detroit has accentuated over a period of several years. Ewing and Grady's approach to this delicate material is similar to the way I believe Wiseman would've approached it, by letting the townfolk tell their stories and share their opinions and do not plan on sharing your own, even if you have the liberty to.

    The question we are left with is the same one we emerged with and that is how will we keep Detroit alive in these rough times? The documentary doesn't provide an answer and neither can I. Better make some more reality TV shows. Hopefully one starring Tommy Stephens.
    Full Review »
  2. May 30, 2013
    The way the film was able to visually romanticize the decay and urban blight of Detroit was captivating and haunting. If you've spend time inThe way the film was able to visually romanticize the decay and urban blight of Detroit was captivating and haunting. If you've spend time in cities such as Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, even DC or Philly, I highly recommend seeing this documentary. Full Review »
  3. Mar 17, 2013
    A valiant effort documenting the collapse of an american city, but poorly executed. There is little here that isn't done as well or betterA valiant effort documenting the collapse of an american city, but poorly executed. There is little here that isn't done as well or better not to mention more concisely by, "Roger and Me" by michael moore over a decade ago. Most of this is now old news & we overstand what has happened & continues to happen in cities across this country. The narrative interviews are strangely restricted to only TWO people, primarily, and even the faint glimmer of hope in the closing scenes is not enough to salvage the city, or this documentary. Look elsewhere. Full Review »