Dark City is a movie that grows in the watching. Every time I saw it had a few aces up its sleeve. I loved the original plot, loved the surreal setting, loved the haunting look and feel of the movie. However, if you’re looking for a popcorn flick, be warned. Dark City is not a straightforward story. This movie blends mystery, a detective story, and a soul quest.
Review by SAndman
July 12, 2008
Director: Alex Proyas
story: Alex Proyas
screenplay: Alex Proyas, Lem Dobbs, and David S. Goyer
Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch
Jennifer Connelly as Emma Murdock/Anna
William Hurt as Inspector Frank Bumstead
Kiefer Sutherland as Dr. Daniel P. Schreber
Richard O’Brien as Mr. Hand
John Murdock: When was the last time you did something during the day?
At midnight, when all seems to stop and people fall asleep, one man wakes up. He jumps out of a bathtub confused and disoriented, with blood smeared across his forehead. He finds some clothes, a suitcase, and a postcard. He has a flashback. Suddenly a telephone ringing breaks the silence.
He picks up the phone and a voice from the other end of the line tells him things he can’t understand. That he suffered a memory loss during an experiment, that they are looking for him and that he must leave the place immediately. He sees something and drops the receiver. Edging across the room, he discovers a dead woman lying on the floor by the bed. Did he kill her?
Frightened, he leaves the apartment and nearly runs into some freakish-looking characters in the hall. Whoever or whatever they might be, one thing is clear – they are after him and they wish him no good. Stumbling out of the lobby of the hotel, he steps into a dark world of mystery.
The police, his doctor, his supposed-to-be wife, and the so-called Strangers are all looking for him. He desperately needs answers. Lost in a maze of streets over which hangs a pall of neverending night, he soon finds out that his memory loss is not the only problem he has.
The movie begins with an intro, a voiceover, which gives away too many clues. This was done at the studio’s behest and it goes to show how badly producers can screw over a visionary movie-maker.
If you love a good puzzle and have not seen this film before, you make sure you watch the first minute and a half with the sound turned off. Up until the scene in which Kiefer Sutherland (Dr. Daniel P. Schreber) checks the time. However, if you’re watching the director’s cut there’s no need for this as they took the voiceover out.
Dark City is a movie of rich texture and brooding atmosphere. Some of the scenes possess a true poetic quality. My personal favorites are the sequences of the city rearranging itself in the process called tuning. That’s something only Strangers can do – until John Murdoch comes along!
And yet for all the vision and grandeur, their creation is flawed. Those imposing buildings and elevated railway tracks, which criss-cross the murky skyline, are but random bits and scraps pieced together by somebody or something that didn’t quite understand what he was doing or how he was doing it.
Dark City is a movie about the dark places of the universe. And about the strange creatures that inhabit these places. For all the differences, we and they have something in common. They want what we all want – to survive. The movie is about them just as much it is about us.
Furthermore, it is about those things that make us human: longing, memory, and love.