John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in an eerie hotel, naked and in the bathtub, with no memories and blood on his forehead. (I couldn't imagine a more strange and frightening experience.) The ring of the hotel phone breaks the silence-- a strange man on the other end tells him he must leave because there are people looking for him. Many events such as this one unfold in Dark City, where "man has no past... and humanity has no future".
Dark City has been passed over by so many critics it's depressing. I think that it should at least have been up for "original screenplay" or SOMETHING at the Oscars to reward Alex Proyas for his fantastic vision. I fail to see why so many people label this movie "noir" like it's BAD or something. Being dark and twisted is not a crime, and despite some other people's comments, this movie is NOT just for the trenchcoat-wearing masses (or if it is, maybe the rest of you can learn something from Goths). If you like sci-fi, dark plots and having reality be so well distorted that you don't realize it IS, so you will love Dark City. (People who have seen the Matrix BEFORE this movie MUST see it, it is very similar in these three respects).
I gave it a 9 out of 10 ONLY because I thought the ending fight scene was a bit weak. Great for a fight scene, but because the rest of the movie focuses on John Murdoch's quest to discover his past and the eerie, ominous happenings in the city, the climax seemed hastily thrown together, as if the crew all of a sudden remembered they had a deadline to meet and could no longer continue the plot in the previous fashion.
The visuals in this movie were absolutely stunning. The effects were NOT used to substitute for the plot, like other movies such as Starship Troopers, Lost in Space and Alien: Resurrection. They were used only as needed and were breathtaking. The editing is NOT as choppy as is rumored, it only lends to the power of the movie. There are some heart-stopping images in Dark City. Watch for the Strangers' clock, views of the city and John's memories.
Proyas takes ideas and ambience from many other movies but integrates them all neatly into Dark City. Gotham City is clearly seen as is Metropolis and other influences such as Ed Hopper's "Nighthawks" dominate in the diner scenes. The forty-ish era (yet strangely futuristic) city is known to be populated, and yet it is ominously empty (hence one of Hopper's main themes, isolation in large cities). (It's especially quiet at midnight, hehehehe... ;D ) This 40's era ambience together with the sci-fi fantasy undercurrent makes for a very interesting feeling while watching.
I'm happy that Kiefer Sutherland, Richard O'Brien (of Rocky Horror fame) and William Hurt agreed to do this movie, it gave Dark City just that much more validation in the USA (I wish things weren't like this, but they are). Kiefer Sutherland is absolutely wonderful and convincing as the doctor/scientist Dr.Schreber, and Rufus Sewell is a properly confused yet determined John Murdoch. Many critics say that William Hurt's character, the detective, and Jennifer Connelly's Emma Murdoch could have used a little more development, but I think part of the point of Dark City was that you don't really know who people are (not to mention yourself). Richard O'Brien and his character's whole race creep me out every time I see the movie, but he's especially frightening and a strange character. I had to resist the urge to talk like a Stranger after seeing the movie a few times.
Trevor Jones, one of my favorite movie composers, did the score for Dark City, and I must say it's very apropo. The deep, bass vocals and frantic themes are some of my favorite aspects, but "Memories of Shell Beach" is a haunting, beautiful song as well. Some of my other favorite scores by him are the Dark Crystal and Last of the Mohicans.
Altogether, I think Alex Proyas had a stroke of genius in the making of this movie. One of the most original dark sci-fi movies I've seen in a long time. It deserves its place with the Matrix, 12 Monkeys and others, pioneers in a field so changed (usually for the worse) since Star Wars and since earlier sci-fi classics. I hope these won't be the last of a (dare I say it?) dying race of movies that have true creativity and originality.
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