Dark City (1998) Poster

(1998)

User Reviews

Add a Review
640 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
9/10
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.
nitehawk-815 June 1999
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.
357 out of 405 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Underrated Brilliant Film.
Matt_Layden14 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Dark City is all about a man who has incredible powers but doesn't realize it. Everyone is under the control of mysterious 'strangers' who are injecting them with false memories/altering their reality. This man (Rufus Sewell) finally confronts these men in a battle for the city.

This is one of those films that inspires you to learn more about sci/fi. The whole movie is cold, dark and it never lights up for a minute. This movie is an underrated brilliant sci-fi film and it bares a resemblance to 'The Matrix', but was made before it, so there is no denying that Dark City must have been an inspiration for The Matrix.

The story is complex but develops itself as a frequently entertaining thriller. It is thought provoking, which is a lesser thing you'll find in films today. You'll sit there thinking about life after viewing this film. It can easily been our future if we head down the road we are on.

The performances are all very good, specially the three lead men. Rufus Sewell plays the confused lead, William Hurt plays the film noir detective and Kiefer Sutherland is the quirky side switching doctor. Don't forget Jennifer Connellywho plays the role with great expertise. Alex Proyas much like The Crow has created this Gothic world where the sun never rises and inhabitants live in darkness. The sets and costumes are beautiful. The acting is top-of-the-line, with Sewell in the lead part. Everyone does a great job.

The villains in this film, THE STRANGERS, are creepy and will send chills down your spine every time you see them in their long black coats and hat. The costumes for them are perfect and could not have been done better, they live in the world underground and you see the different lifestyles between them and the people they control, yet live above them.

The thing that amazed me the most would be the cross between the 1950 to 1980's, it was brilliant, the set pieces were perfect for this film. Every time I saw the buildings changing, I was in amazement. Everyone that took part in this film should be praised, this is a film that should get more attention from the general public, but is overshadowed by films that like to put more action then story in it's plot.
140 out of 176 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A fantastic science-fiction masterpiece!
ChoiBaby6 February 1999
An absolutely brilliant and nightmarish production! DARK CITY is an enriching and surreal experience, full of beautiful images and powerful symbolism.

John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up one night, resting inside a bathtub. He look around, realizing that he is inside a hotel room. In a state of shock, he finds a bloody corpse lying near his bed. Then...reality sinks in. He discovers an appalling revelation which he cannot accept. He is wanted for murder on six separate accounts. How does all of this fit in when he thought of himself as a completely sane person? He does not believe he was responsible for these murders, but the cops think otherwise as they chase him down... Next, a swarm of humanoid creatures known only as the "Strangers" have summon him. For unknown reasons, Murdoch happens to fit into their intricate schemes for conquest...

This is just scratching the surface of the premise for Alex Proyas' moody and engaging film, DARK CITY. DARK CITY is a very vivid film with an original concept. As the story expands and the main character must go into the heart of the matter, he learns that there's a conspiracy going on "mixing and matching" different identities together into one whole. The Strangers are the masters...the inhabitants are their puppets...and the city is their playground...

DARK CITY essentially has gorgeous photography, capturing aspects of the entire city where imagination paints the picture and provides the details. This film relies a lot on imagery and the fantastic production values are laced with a perplexing storyline that keeps the viewer's eyes glued to the screen. The eye-catching, stylish future noir designs a visionary world, evinced in the setting of the Big Apple itself, New York City during the time period of the 1940s. Dark City's visual backgrounds enliven a difficult and incomprehensible plot to comprehend and the special effects create an astounding experience, traveling into a vortex of mankind's phantasm.

DARK CITY, in addition to the superb background settings, allows for character development as well. The audiences grows greatly in a moment of eagerness as they want to determine what will happen next to the characters in this film. As always, the cast is wonderful. Rufus Sewell is excellent as John Murdoch, convincing as an ordinary man on the run from both the law and the strangers. Jennifer Connelly is sensuous and appealing as Murdoch's loving and concerned wife. William Hurt plays his cards right as a straitlaced NYPD inspector, Frank Bumstead, who keeps pursuing John Murdoch. As an eccentric psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Paul Schreber, Kiefer Sutherland conveys a confused doctor who shares a frightening connection to these Strangers.

DARK CITY is splendid viewing injected with a theme about the loss of identity and the destruction of individualism in order to create an ideal society. DARK CITY is an unforgettable, breathtaking visual experience! This film is enriched with layers of characterization, a plot where there is more than meets the eye, and venturous special effects. DARK CITY is recommended viewing with the lights out! A thoroughly cogent flick which keeps you guessing what is going on. DARK CITY is a fine treat for the eyes and mind. This is one journey where you reach the point of no return!

RATING: *** out of ****.
130 out of 169 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
One of the best science fictions ever made...
mutlu_bahar26 November 2004
Dark City is the best film of Alex Proyas. He uses the Gothic and claustrophobic themes commonly and dark colors prevail during the film like "The Crow" .The story doesn't follow a certain order of rule, instead there is some mind games and puzzles in the film, that causes watchers to be active in each minute and motivate to the movie..

The topic is about a man who loses his past and first finds himself in a bath tub, doesn^t know about himself and his life, but he has one ability that no one has, he can be alive when the evil forces stops the time and reshapes the world according to their own demand. The story is so fantastic and Proyas' nightmare world come true in that movie.

I can basically say that it's one of the best science fiction movies ever made, it opens doors to different dimensions and force human brains' capability....

"Mutlu Bahar"
195 out of 264 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Truly Dark.
CrassActionHero14 September 2006
Dark City (1998) New Line Cinema.

Review: Dark City being directed by Alex Proyas, who directed the dark thriller The Crow, I had to see this movie. This is an original, dark, engaging, and one of the best movies of 1998.

The story is the best. A man who wakes up in a bathtub has no memory at all. He discovers that some ominous beings are coming after him. Who are they? What do they want? And to top it off, he is a suspect in several murders. As the story unfolds, it just gets more interesting. The look of the city is quite a sight. It has an old school comic book feel to it. The style of everything is a nice 1940's style, from clothing to the cars.

As we follow our hero, we learn more about him....or do we? What is real? What is fake? Questions keep coming up but, are their any answers to all these questions? Even more weird is when at the stroke of midnight, the city changes shape while everyone sleeps.

Our hero is also followed by an honest detective, Insp. Bumstead, who just wants answers to the murders and gets involved in the mystery too. Our hero wants to look for one location that could unlock the mystery to everything. What could it be?

Another strong point here is the acting is excellent. Rufus Sewell plays his role with conviction and passion. The casting is flawless.

The Last Word: Awesome flick. This is a movie that is excellent brain food. It makes you think....a lot. You will most likely watch this over and over again to figure everything out. No problem. This movie never gets old. Highly recommended.
60 out of 79 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
The Best Scifi of the Ninetees
Darnoc29 July 2004
This is probably the best Sci-Fi-Film of the Ninetees. Matrix is good, but this film is better. Both deal with the same question: What is reality? Not only was Dark City first, it also handles the subject much better and more adult than Matrix. Also its conclusion is far better than the one of Matrix.

Not only does this film deal with reality, it also deals with humanity, something which lacks Matrix. What makes us humans? To quote Dr. Schreber from the film "Are we more than just the sum of our Experiences?" This film is slowpaced, but not boring at all. And it deserves the title: Dark. The film is dark, "noir" and this gives the film a great atmosphere. The darkness and coldness of the strangers is in contrast to the bright light of the sun created by John Murdoch in the end.

This film is very philosophic, which I like. The best films are those which help us to think and this one clearly is such a film. Something which is needed in our society of marionettes and idiotic consumers who know more than anyone else before in history but who lack the ability to truly think.

The show down was a little weak, but the film made this up again at the very end with the last meeting between Murdoch and Mr. Hand. I remember Murdoch's words well and he speaks of a truth which is sometimes forgotten: What makes us human is not to be found in our heads, our brains and our minds.
125 out of 175 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
A brilliantly-conceived and intelligent visual masterpiece
CWP-6 July 1999
Warning: Spoilers
My age: 13

John Murdoch, played by Rufus Sewell, awakens in a bathtub in a hotel room, not remembering anything about his past and discovering that he is wanted for a series of brutal murders. He receives a phone call from Dr Schreber, played by Kiefer Sutherland, who wishes to help him, and leaves the hotel. He begins to have memories of Shell Beach from a postcard in his suitcase. He has no idea what is going on in the dark city. The strangers are another species who live under the ground and search for the human soul. The strangers have the ability to tune, to cloud people's minds and make them sleep. John finds that he is the only person who can resist this power and use it himself. Every night the strangers put the whole town to sleep, imprint people with new memories and change the appearance of the city. Detective Bumstead, played by William Hurt, is on the murder case, trying to bring John in, but is then caught up in helping John uncover the truth.

This film is visually excellent, especially during the scenes when the strangers are changing the city. I look forward to future work by the director Alex Proyas, whose directing style is brilliant in this film. Acting performances are very good, and the film has an interesting and intriguing plot. The characters are well thought up, and you really care about them. The film is great from start to finish, but the film is best in the end, with a showdown between the main stranger and John. One of the best films of recent times, Dark City deserves to be called the Number 1 movie of 1998 by Roger Ebert.

Australian Classification: M 15+: Medium Level Violence

Rating: 88 out of 100
76 out of 104 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Think Matrix philosophy - without the hype and SFX
Dave Porter15 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
If you like mind twisting movies that stick with you for days/weeks and make you question the human existence and our reality as we know it, then DARK CITY is the film for you.

Similar in philosophy to the later released 'The Matrix', the film is centered around a man (Rufus Sewell) who becomes suddenly and unwittingly aware that his world is not what it seems. The film kicks off with Murdoch (Sewell) waking up in a bathtub with no memory and a dead body in the same room. He has no recollection as to how and why he's there.

As Murdoch attempts to put the pieces together he notices that at every midnight on the dot, apart from Murdoch himself, every inhabitant in the city falls asleep. It's then that he realizes that something even bigger than his memory loss is taking place.

Alex Proyas (The Crow) manages to combine a tantalisingly interesting Sci-Fi screenplay with dark and drab yet beautifully mysterious cinematography and he pulls it off (once again). Although a box-office flop, it has managed to, through the years, collect and maintain a cult following which is well deserved.

It isn't without it's faults, Rufus Sewell although adequate, doesn't steal the show (much like Keanu), and the talented co-stars (k. Sutherland, Connelly & Hurt) aren't utilised as well as they could be. The story does become slight complicated and a little ridiculous at times, but which Sci-Fi movie hasn't suffered from that affliction?! To summarise, think of 'The Matrix', minus the big name stars, special effects and hype, and multiply the philosophy and mystery by 10 (without complicating it, like the Matrix sequels did) and you end up with DARK CITY.
91 out of 127 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Matrix this is not...it much much better.
Sinnerman2 May 2003
I will be part of the rabid throngs of people lining up to catch a spectacle as huge as Reloaded and Revolution. Despite(and maybe because of) Matrix sky high hype right now, my thoughts drift back to this overlooked classic...but a little on Neo and gang first below...

The Matrix just happened.

With an uncanny midas touch, The Warchowski bros launched this(then unknown film) at the the right place, in the right time. With an execution commercial enough to bring in the box office moola and a philosophical subtext accessible enough for the general public to latch on to, the rest, as they say...is history.

The philosophical under pinnings though, (of blue pills, red pills, the subreality of consciousness and all that mambo jambo etc), so successfully popularised by The Matrix, was infact neither originated by The Matrix nor as fully realised than in other more accomplished works.

Which leads me to....drumroll.....

As such, IMHO, the best execution on the concept of reality and perception was already explored in a much more unbelievably visual opus, one year earlier, the grossly overlooked, criminally under-rated,

"Dark City". (One of My Top 10 All time Favourite Films)

This scifi/ film noir hybrid was impactful both cinematically and ideologically. Most importantly, it rewarded my wildly abandoned reach for human imagination and thirst for ideas, by fulfilling as much promise a motion picture can ever hope to give.

On top of that, my background as a "trekkie" scifi nerd meant I instinctively respond to films which challenge me both intellectually and spiritually. Dark City was thus a near religious, life cleansing experience for me.

And any which way I look at it, this film soars to heights unseen since 2001: A Space Odyssey...

But due to its messed up(or near-absent) marketing campaign(positioning the film to resemble a horror film for the teenage crowd), the film did not find its intended audience and flopped unceremoniously. Of course it found its audience but by then its was too late...

That said, the thirst for something better than our run of the mill pop corn fare is still there, waiting to be quenched.

And The Matrix filled that void.

Too bad it wasn't this film. But in a ideal world, it would. Sad.
296 out of 442 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
One of the Best Movies Ever Made
john_murdoch200212 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Words can't begin to describe the admiration that I have for this movie. Even to this day, six years after seeing it for the first time, I can't get over the freshness, originality, and overall boldness of Alex Proyas' visionary masterpiece. Now that Proyas is getting a larger budget for I, Robot this year, I felt that it would be time to credit Proyas' earlier science fiction masterpiece in anticipation that I, Robot would only live up to this film.

From the opening shots of this film, the viewer is instantly plummeted into a bold and grand setting of an indistinct city that seems that this is how noir films of the forties would look if they were in color. After a display of the bizarre occurrence that happens to the city around midnight, we are introduced to the film's protagonist, a man named John Murdoch, who awakens in a bathtub, with no memory of his life or how he got where he was. Needless to say, what happened to the dead woman next to his bed. After a few clues that seem to trigger brief glimpses of his childhood, he is chased from his room by three odd looking figures, looking for him.

As Murdoch wanders the city, trying to find his identity, we learn that not only are the strange people (who are appropriately named The Strangers) looking for Mr. Murdoch, but a police officer named Bumstead is as well, searching for the killer of not just the woman in the apartment, but six other women who were murdered in the same manner as the woman from Murdoch's room. Also is Murdoch's estranged wife, who is trying to make a reconciliation with him after a falling out. Even a therapist that Murdoch has been seeing because of his wife's infidelity is searching for him as well. Everyone seems to have their own reason to be searching for Murdoch, and Murdoch is trying to figure out why, since he has no clue as to who he is. In a sense, Murdoch's quest becomes a search for identity in a world that is trying to label him. Is he a murderer, is he a jilted lover, is he psychologically damaged person, or is he a like the strangers who are pursuing him?

But that becomes the center question of Dark City itself, do we make up who we are or are we made up of experiences and memories? We realize this question when we realize the purpose of the Strangers' inhabitance of the city. They are actually aliens, whose race is dying out and they need to observe the human race to see what has made us thrive so much. So, we enter their experiment, which revolves around making the inhabitants of the city fall asleep at midnight while the strangers give them new lives by implanting new memories in them and changing the environment around them.

Murdoch also discovers that the reason the Strangers are coming after him is because he has developed an immunity to the experiment, not falling asleep when everyone else does. He has also begun to take on the traits of the strangers as well, gaining their power to "tune", which is the ability to alter their environment by will alone. This whole concept suggests two things, the first being that humanity has the ability to adapt and thrive in a new environment and the other is that as an individual, humans have the ability to shape their world to their own desire once they are fully aware of themselves and their desires.

The movie in itself is a brilliant commentary on our society as a whole which is displayed in the beginning with Dr. Schreber's rat experiment in the lab, which comes to symbolize a smaller scale version of the strangers' experiment for us, putting rats (humans) in a maze of a city (life) and seeing if they can find their way. Which also seems to suggest that as a society, we are merely just rats in a maze, wandering around until we come to the end. The strangers' insistence on doing everything as a group also brings up another interesting point about the human race is that our ability to be individuals is what makes humans thrive rather than conformity and similarity. "Dark City" takes such bold and brilliant concepts, suggesting so much about our society as a whole and even the importance of individuality over conformity. The themes, once read into, take on such a strong and complex turn, unheard of in most science fiction films of recent years.

Then there is the matter of the setting itself, for no science fiction film can be complete without a strong and symbolic setting. The setting is vast and detailed, and this isn't just the city, which is a sight to behold in itself. The underground world of the strangers themselves is claustrophobic, atmospheric, and actually is the most alien in architecture, suggesting a twisted, surrealistic world, yet one that is dependent on the world above them. The city above ground displays a rich noir feel in which one feels that there is something sinister lurking underneath it's surface. Even the blending of the time periods, seeing 30s architecture around 60s cars driven by people in 50s suits is even a hint off that the city has been fabricated out of different eras and pasts as one of the strangers even seems to suggest.

"Dark City" is a film rich in ideas, concepts, visual splendor, and atmosphere. It's the kind of film that one seems to enjoy being lost in, despite the danger that lurks in it's atmosphere. It's a film that reassures it's viewers that a strong understanding of oneself and staying true to yourself that one can conquer any world they are placed in. And as I, Robot approaches, one can only hope that lightning can strike twice with Proyas and his unique blend of visual grandeur and his depth will emerge and be embraced by a larger audience, who might seek out this film.
54 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews