Thursday, March 27, 2014

MR Dark City

In the end of the 1990s came a great neo-punk noir film about a man waking up to find reality is not what it appears to be. And accepting that while learning to use some special abilities to fight the ones who have been keeping people from finding the truth....

And I'm not talking about The Matrix...

Movie: Dark City 
Directed by Alex Proyas
Release date 1998
Genre Science-fiction/neo-noir thriller
Country USA

Directed, produced and based on a screenplay/story written by Alex Proyas - renowned director behind such films as The Crow, I, Robot and Knowing (okay, that one's probably his weakest film to date), Dark City is a neo-noir thriller exploring themes,ideas and vintage aesthetic as a throwback to old 1950s noir films.

The film also has some cyber-punk undertones that helped establish it as a cult classic over the years.

Proyas often loves to explore the nature of reality and dark mature themes in his films.

This was probably is most personal project in years, the one he embraced every aspect of its production, clearly a work of love.

This "neo-noir" film was distributed by New Line Cinema in 1998, and sadly kinda forgotten and ditched aside at the time, probably due to the Wachowski bros.' very own The Matrix released shortly a couple months later, the following year.

What's it about?

Dark City opens in medias res.

Our tale begins with a man waking up alone, in some hotel.

His name, John Murdoch.

John Murdoch is all alone in a bathtub, and he has no memories what happened to him.

Suddenly, John gets a call. From a Dr. Daniel Schreber.

John has to flee. Some dangerous people are after him. Mysterious persons in black trenchcoats.

John is now on the run. He remembers having a wife,  named Emma.

As the story unfolds, our amnesiac protagonist remembers some bits of his memories. He remembers a strange brutal murder. Did he kill someone? There's also some strange memories of a house by a beach.

John goes looking for his own past and the secrets behind a shady underworld organization. They call them The Strangers.

What does Dr. Schreber really want from him?

The Strangers appear to be able to put people to sleep and alter the city to their own purposes. There's also a Police Inspector after him.

The plot unveils a dark conspiracy. His mind might have the key to free everyone.
Alien parasites took over Earth/this "Dark City". They have been using mankind's collective consciousness for their own purposes and trapped them in this simulated city, rewriting the memories of the humans every now and then when they get too close to the truth. The whole thing is actually taking place in space - whaaaat??
The film stars Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt.

Dark City was a very innovative film.

It's without a doubt one of the best science-fiction of the entire 1990s.

Even though the film didn't get a huge success at the box office or at least a validation from the masses, spawning a huge multi-media franchise like the Star Wars franchise or The Matrix series.

Because you can't not compare it to the Wachowski's own take on those similar ideas. It not only shares a very similar plot and structure but also some same sets, in fact it's kind of funny how John Murdoch ends up running in the same streets, corridors and roofs as Trinity and Neo.

But unlike The Matrix, Dark City embraced those film noir themes and sticked to them to the end (The Matrix mostly uses those as the start to bring the idea of the virtual world, not quite that right, and ditches that for both the final act and the sequels).

After a quick narrated intro which was added much to Alex Proyas' displeasure by the studio, which reveals some key information for later and foreshadows the entire final act. I never had much problem with it, it gives some plot hints but doesn't ruin the entire twist ending. Instead it left us ponder those thoughts aside for the entire movie until it comes back in the plot to finally become relevant.

The film is a real treasure of cinematography. Perfectly well executed, and with great details used in every single scene that you will only discover on repeated screenings.

Dark City was mostly inspired by old German silent films, including the cult classic Nosferatu - in fact the villains here wore similar black coats -, Metropolis and finally Blade Runner for its thought-provoking noir universe. I'd personally go as far as saying it's more in line with Blade Runner, more so than any later Philip K. Dick adaptation. At least it was the closest film to ever recapture that similar tone.

The first half-hour act explores the meaning of reality, kind of like a dark alternate more sinister version of The Truman Show, which was released the same year.

Dark City is a dark film, with fantastic acting and superb art direction.

The soundtrack was composed of a fantastic moody score brilliantly composed by Trevor Jones, accompanied by some great music in line with the tone of the film.

Sadly, it got a mixed reception at the time, confusing the audience. But that's what I love about it. Despite everything, at the end of the day, the film still leaves things open to interpretation, answering most threads regarding the main plot but ending with the viewer left with more questions...

Overall, one of the best looking films of all time.

It holds up surprisingly well after almost two decades.

Dark City is a stunning film, highly stylish and unlike most of what was being released at the time.

Also if you like the film or want to be totally left in the dark regarding the plot, give a look at the original Director's Cut. That was the way the film was originally meant to be cut, and not yet another studio stunt for another home release. That versions added 11' minutes to the runtime, adding to the film's mystery. Not simply extended cuts, but rather offering some alternate takes and a couple of new scenes/shots here and there, which adds a lot to the feeling of being lost, what really is reality. Plus it cuts off the studio's forced narration-opening (which was.. ok, but not entirely necessary).

All in all, a highly recommended classic!

I give it:
3 / 3 UFOs!

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