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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Visually arresting

Author: ctomvelu from usa
16 September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS THROUGHOUT: A great big sci-fi comic book of a movie about aliens experimenting with human captives. DARK CITY may not be as good as THE MATRIX or BLADE RUNNER but it is certainly watchable throughout. Brit actor Rufus Sewell plays the film's stolid hero John Murdoch, and may prove a little too quirky and odd-looking for American audiences, which is a shame. But the quick-jump editing and rapid-fire scenes shifts will keep most viewers' attention -- or at least keep them distracted. Keifer Sutherland is fine as a timid medical doctor seemingly in thrall to the alien overlords; William Hurt is OK as a dull but intrepid police inspector who slowly uncovers the truth of the situation; and Jennifer Connelley makes great eye candy as a clueless resident of this strange, time-shifting city that turns out to be an alien construct floating in outer space. For the slow-witted viewer, screenwriter-director Proyas has the doctor and the aliens serve as the film's Greek chorus, periodically explaining things to the awakening Sewell. Sewell turns out to be unique among the human captives and is actually, thanks to Sutherland, a psionic superman. My favorite moment in this fast-moving film comes when the aliens reveal midway they are inhabiting the bodies of human corpses, which may explain why they look so pale and cadaverous-looking. Outside of these bodies, the aliens are gelatinous and fluid in appearance, looking a lot like jellyfish with razor-sharp teeth. The inevitable CGI (this was shot in 1998, after all) isn't bad, but thank heaven the bulk of it is saved for a battle-to-save-the-world sequence at the climax. There are some "flying" sequences that don't begin to compare to similar sequences in THE MATRIX, which I understand was shot on some of the same sets. The look of this film is terrific, with weird urban landscapes and wonderfully lighted sets that appear to be constantly encased in a suffocating darkness (the alien overlords are not fond of sunlight, as it turns out). On the other hand, the screenplay is on the thin side. We are let in on the film's secret from the start, so all that we are left with for the next 90 minutes is to follow John Murdoch's gradual awakening to his situation. Shades of COLOMBO and various TWILIGHT ZONE episodes! DARK CITY is not a great film but it is a very good one, a two-and-a-half-star flick that comes highly recommended to younger viewers who did not grow up with THE TWILIGHT ZONE and the writings of authors like Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson and Philip K. Dick. It looks like it might have been based on a graphic novel and does some significant borrowing, from films like TOTAL RECALL, DUNE, CUBE, FIRE IN THE SKY, THE TRUMAN SHOW and even WARLOCK 2: THE ARMAGEDDON. But no harm done. In its own way, DARK CITY is truly unique. The director, who also made the atmospheric THE CROW, is now shooting I,ROBOT. That could prove interesting.

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16 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

My thoughts.... (apologies to the fans of this film)

Author: Anton Murrell from Sydney, NSW, Australia
7 December 2010

Let me start out by saying that I love my sci-fi films. I'm a fanatic, I watch hundreds of films every year and I believe the medium of film to be the most advanced form of art in existence. Sci-fi is my favorite genre, and I especially like the darker films ie, Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Videodrome, Brazil, Alphaville, The Fly, Terminator, etc.

So (if you're still reading) you can assume that I was pleased when I was able to locate a copy of Dark City. I had heard a lot about it, as an underrated film and a dark sci-fi masterpiece (or so I had heard).

I wasn't sick when I began watching it, but by the end I was really wondering why I put myself through the whole thing. I understood what everyone was on about, but I wasn't able to get into the film at all. It was a mess, the backdrops were just plain ugly, the aliens were highly unimaginative and made me want to throw up, the way that old-fashioned and futuristic objects were stirred together just was appalling and the script was terrible ("I have him......IN MIND").

Now, none of these things would matter if done properly. The script could have been improved, the sets made more kind of oddly beautiful in an ugly way (see Blade Runner), the combination of old and futuristic elements more fluid, and the aliens having more than sub-60's-Doctor-Who creativity and believability (ie, not just greenish humans with no hair)

In summary, this was almost a good film, but it ended up as a steaming pile of Dark Sh|t.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Amateurish, comic strip geek fodder

Author: BhindiB from London, England
16 February 1999

This is the worst made film I have seen in the past two years.

I can't put my finger on one particular aspect that makes this film bad. Kiefer Sutherland is badly miscast, William Hurt doesn't really seem involved in the film - ala Lost in Space (actually that film was worse). The lead actor Rufus Sewell tries his best but is one-dimensional.

Somewhere in this film is a good story trying to get out. There are "some" good actors. The effects and set design are not the problem. It is the pace, direction, editing and cliched imagery of the film which make this film unpalatable.

I can only think that this film has got good reviews from many people on the net as a backlash to the sugary, saccharin rubbish that Hollywood has pumped out this last year.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The City in the sky.

Author: Madluke91 from United Kingdom
19 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

First of all i must warn that this review will contain spoilers, so be forewarned:

I just watched this movie, which was released in 1998 and i hadn't even heard of until now in 2009! I do believe it is fair to say that this film is under the radar for a lot of people.

I have to say this movie suits me perfectly; i often say when i am asking for recommendations that the perfect movie for me is a semi-surreal movie, kind of similar in that respect to A Clockwork Orange, and no i am not under any illusion; this is nothing like a clockwork orange, but it does have that semi-surreal feel to it. The dark figures, non-human like, the surreal, fantasy like city. When i first put the film on, i was almost watering at the mouth, the film seemed very promising from the start; the awesome soundtrack, produces the 'correct' atmosphere throughout: epic at times, eerie at others, dark at others, but always seeming not out of place. Then as the film evolves, you do get deep into the plot; it makes you think, you care about the characters, and most importantly of all, it sticks with you. If i do have any negative points it would be these. Rufus Sewell is one of my least favourite actors, and i mean out of any in the world. I have never been fond of him, and in this film also his performance for me isn't great. The overall point though is that i didn't really like the casting; there wasn't really a standout performance for me. However the film is so well directed and the idea is so unique, that i found this pushed to the back of my mind as i just sat back and enjoyed the film from beginning to end. I also was left thinking if only. If only this film had a larger budget!! This film as i have previously mentioned suits my tastes almost perfectly, and i couldn't help but to imagine what this film could have been on a larger budget. Putting this aside, the film is well made, but it does have a cheap feel/look to it. I could imagine, and did want, this to be a masterpiece, but due to its budget in my opinion, the film just lacked little bits and pieces. But stepping away from the negative, i do have to say that i thoroughly enjoyed the film, will probably watch it again, and would recommend it to anyone, not just someone looking for, like me, a film with a semi-surreal feel. If i was to compare this film to another film, i would have to say imagine The Truman Show. There are many differences, but the whole life is a lie, controlled, even made, by another is all here. Its one of those films i will say to anyone, watch it once. It might not be for everyone, but it is certainly worth watching once.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Welcome To Shell Beach.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
2 July 2013

Dark City D/C

Dark City is directed by Alex Proyas who also co-writes the screenplay with Leon Dobbs and David S. Goyer. It stars Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard O'Brien and Ian Richardson. Music is by Trevor Jones and cinematography by Dariusz Wolski.

A man wakes up in a grotty hotel bathroom and upon finding a dead girl in another room he realises he has no recollection of who he is or how he got there...

There's a lot of Blade Runner fans still out there waiting for that film's sexual partner to happen along. What many of them don't realise is that Alex Proyas has already made that movie. More than a cult film yet still criminally ignored in certain circles, Dark City, by way of poor box office and studio interference, never got off to the best of starts. The problems were compounded with the release of The Matrix the following year, where that film's popularity, and its sci-fi linkage to Dark City, led many to think that Proyas' movie was a Matrix rip-off; pushing it further (unjustly) back in the sci-fi noir pantheon. Fact is is that Dark City homages much great cinema from previous years, but it has influenced much that followed, with Inception fans asked to note that Nolan himself was taking notes...

Stolen Memories.

Dark City is a feverish film noir dressed up in stunning sci-fi clothes. The amazing visuals have led many to state that it's a film with much style and little substance, something which Proyas has fiercely argued against; and he's right to do so, especially once his own preferred director's cut became available to view. The story is a complex one, pulsing with human characters living in a world where there is no daylight, with their respective memories scratchy to say the least, it quickly becomes evident that a creepy alien race are overseeing things. The aliens, wonderfully attired in black trench-coats and hats to match, and aided by Kiefer Sutherland's shifty - stammer affected - doctor, have special powers and their reasons for being here unfold in deftly constructed stages. One man stands in their way, John Murdoch (Sewell), but he is an olde noir amnesia sufferer supreme and his battle to unravel what is going on is our task as well.

Do you think about the past much Mrs. Murdoch?

The search for identity and the truth is what propels the picture forward. Murdoch in his confused state is not only at the center of an existential dilemma, he's also the focal point for a serial killer murder investigation. This also as he tries to come to terms with matters of the heart, it seems he has a beautiful wife (Connelly), and that she may have cheated on him? And why is he drawn to the place known as Shell Beach? A simple narrative hidden by visual splendours? Don't make me laugh! But hell you have to say the visual look and atmosphere of the design is very much attention grabbing.

I have become the monster you were intended to be.

With the film noir characters in place; Hurt's dour sleuth, Sewell's amnesiac and Connelly's sultry torch singer, Proyas brings German expressionism in abundance whilst overseeing an eye splintering neo-noir colour palette. Greens and reds often ping from the screen, while the murky browns and golds down on the angular city streets pave the way for changed perceptions and revelations of plotting. There are reoccurring motifs throughout, with swirls and circles integral to mood and meanings, while at the mid-point we then get to see Proyas' tricks of the trade, where the city shifts and moves to create a meeting of Metropolis and Gotham, all as the humans slumber away. Watch those clocks folks...

You know how I was supposed to feel. That person isn't me... never was. You wanted to know what it was about us that made us human. Well, you're not going to find it...

Acting performances are hardly top of the line (Sutherland especially irritates more than he impresses), but they actually don't need to be, and they all look terrific in their respective dressage. The story is of course bonkers and one which I myself found was much better whilst consuming mucho alcohol! (I watched it three times in 48 hours!) While Proyas himself is on record as saying it's a far from flawless picture. Again he is right, but he also knows that his film is still under valued and in need of more to seek out his director's cut. The late Roger Ebert championed Dark City with much gusto, and he provides very good input on the DVD, much like Roger I have to say, this is a unique and fabulous sci-fi noir experience. A film in fact fit to watch alongside Blade Runner; And I do not ever say that lightly. 9/10

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Not a bad at all

Author: rishi_is_here-1 from Belgium
23 August 2008

This is a movie you would love if you love the Matrix movie's concept. Well, the concept remains same but not the action which makes Matrix one of the most watchable sci-fi movie of this decade. This one does have clean cinematography though, with okay acts by Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Stherland, William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly. If one is intrigued by the mystery of our very existence then this kind of movie is surely going to provide some food for thought. If one day you get up and find that everything around you is just a big lie and the whole world surrounded you is fabricated, manipulated then what will be your reaction. In this one like Keanu in Matrix, Rufus also possesses the power of the changers, somehow lacks the brightness, smartness of Matrix. However all in all this is a watchable movie, just don't expect and compare with Matrix.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

One of the best sci-fi movies I've seen

Author: funkyfry from Oakland CA
13 December 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What I'd personally like to focus on is the theme of the fluidity of identity, a strong theme explored in many great works of fantasy and fiction in general, film noir in particular (e.g. "The Scar", "Tension," "Gilda"). Here we have a brilliant twist on the old amnesia story – our hero John Murdock's (Rufus Sewell) memories weren't lost because of some trauma or neurosis/psychosis, but rather he never had those memories because he actually avoided a trauma and a neurosis tailor-made for him by alien interlopers called The Strangers. In the course of the film the characters piece together reality from the bits left behind every night by the Strangers. The crux of the story is the same as the object of the Strangers' experiment – the nature of the human soul, specifically free will, the role that experiences or conditioning play in our decision making process. If you give a regular man the memories of a serial killer, will he continue to act as a killer or to what extent will his "nature" assert itself? The Strangers do realize that man is more than the sum of his experiences, but they need to know what exactly causes that difference. It really gets interesting when one of the Strangers, Mr. Hand, injects himself with the memories that were supposed to be John Murdock's, and actually becomes the killer. Taking up Mr. Ebert's suggestion that Mr. Hand represents the Jungian dark self or shadow of the hero (a fairly obvious conclusion), the film seems to be making a refreshingly optimistic statement about the importance of the conscious rational mind over and above the irrational unconscious.

This film seems at first overly stylized and derivative, but after the secret is revealed we realize why this is so – heck you could even argue that the Strangers watched "Metropolis," "Naked City" etc. and formed their ideas about human society through them though such a conceit is hardly necessary: the Strangers are drawing from various epochs in human history and perhaps they are deliberately trying to give the humans an atmosphere both recognizable and alien. After all, if you were seeking the mystery of the soul it would hardly do to simply look at one period of time or one particular culture. It's also clear the director is using the image of the circles not just as a metaphor for the story and the process of self-discovery that forms the core of the drama, but also as a way of explaining how and why the city was built. The city might resemble aspects of both the "real" and "romantic" 1940s – 1960s city simply as a result of the natural process of adding up and combining all the pieces of memory and impression used as building blocks in its creation. Form mirrors content upon accumulation of details, in other words.

I also really agree with Ebert's point that the reason some of these performances might seem shallow is because here we have actors who are working with characters that don't have any real memories. As such, method acting would actually be inappropriate. I like the idea that they are forming their real personalities based on the experiences they've actually had in real life, which is to say the events we've seen in the film itself. I had an interesting event that happened to me the other day that sheds some light on this, for me anyway. I went into my favorite burrito place here in Oakland, a place I visit almost every week. I walked through the restaurant and went up to the counter to order my food, and then someone slapped me on the back. I turn and see one of my best friends in the world standing there laughing. And it occurred to me later – how could I possibly not see my best friend sitting there at the table? It's because we're in "city-mode" when we're moving about the city doing things – very focused on what we're doing and adopting a sort of glazed indifference to the chaos around us as a defense mechanism. And thinking about this movie, it seems to me that what we're seeing is really an exaggerated version of the normal reality of city life such as what I experienced the other day. Consider how the other characters in the story don't even think about the fact that they don't have any specific memories and can't tell anyone how to get to Shell Beach. They are just more or less doing what they need to do, running through the maze the Strangers have set up for them. Go into the automat, push the button, get what you need. Sadly this is very recognizable I'm sure to most people today, particularly those of us who live in the city. This film is reminding us to stay awake and constantly question authority and reality. It is also reminding us of how much of life and reality we miss every day simply by getting so focused on our own immediate needs and fears. These characters in this story pass each other in the night – they really do touch each other, even through the fog of cynicism and predatory sex and violence that lie at the heart of Dark City and film noir itself. And to whatever extent the film is successful, they touch us as well. I don't think the film was trying to make a metaphysical/philosophical argument, but simply to remind us (as did some of the best episodes of "Twilight Zone" and the film "Blade Runner") that there's more to being human than simply satisfying our needs and wants, even though living in the city sometimes it feels like that's all anyone is capable of.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Not Great. But not Bad.

Author: isabelle1955
16 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have Netflix to thank for seeing this movie; I'd never heard of it before it popped up on my "Recommended" list after I rented another sci-fi DVD. Of course I'm watching it more than seven years late and I don't ever recall seeing it gracing local movie theatres here in California, but then most Australian movies seem to pass us by. I'm not sure why. Perhaps they could do with a new Australian Film Marketing Office? I'm a long time science fiction fan, dating back more years than I care to admit, to when I was a teenager and discovered Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and the strange but talented Philip K Dick. I'll even admit to being a closet Trekkie, so I can safely say I've seen an awful lot of sci-fi over the years, of various degrees of quality. And I think this is a pretty fair movie.

Not faultless by any means. But reasonably good. A man wakes up in the bath with blood on his head and nothing for company except a goldfish, and he can't remember how he got there. He's not suffering the after effects of a three day bender but he IS wanted for a series of brutal murders, and he has an attractive, devoted wife he can't recall. Outside it is always night-time, and apparently he's been missing quite a while. The city is run by shadowy aliens (all male by the look of them) and he holds the key to their defeat because he is immune to their control. The movie addresses the usual sci-fi questions of reality, memory and perception, and is based on the fairly unoriginal idea that life on earth (or in this case, a city), is really the large scale experiment of a superior life form, with human beings taking on the role of lab rats. But the script is mostly well written and intelligent, and approaches the "alien experiment" idea in an original way. The overall design is suitably dark and brooding, reminiscent of a Holodeck reconstruction of 1940s America, with everything just a little too perfect and clean to be real. I suspect the production designer may have been a closet Trekkie too.

Blade Runner meets The Truman Show came to mind. This is a plot and character driven science fiction film, where the effects enhance rather than overwhelm the story, so it gets my vote. I love sci-fi and fantasy but despise the way special effects are so often used as substitutes for decent writing and story development.

My main gripe would be the sound track, closely followed by the costume design (yes really!). Why do the producers of sci-fi, (on film and TV), always seem to think we need a continuous and portentous sound track to guide us through the plot? I found the sound track intrusive. Subtle it is not. And my gripe with the costumes? Well how often have we seen aliens garbed in high collars as if they all have spinal damage and need neck braces? I live with the hope that higher intelligence will lead to more imaginative taste in clothing. The alien dialogue was a bit of a cliché – if these guys can manipulate reality and matter, they can probably learn to speak English properly too, and Keifer Sutherland's performance was a little irritating. His breathy and stilted delivery of his lines had me wondering if he was supposed to be asthmatic? I kept hoping someone would pass the poor guy an inhaler. I enjoyed Jennifer Connelly's performance immensely, and I thought William Hurt very good.

But good sci-fi is such a rarity that I'm willing to ignore the faults. Thanks Netflix! Keep the recommendations coming!

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

An audio visual feast

Author: callipygian from Oakland, CA
5 November 2002

Dark City completely blew me away. As the credits started to roll and the lights came up in the house, I could hardly move as I noticed how heavily I was breathing. This film was like an orgasm for the senses. The cinematography, mood, music and ambience easily equaled that of "The Crow" and "City of Lost Children". Unfortunately, this film lacked in just about every other category. That is to say, the acting, plot, dialog, and characters were all pretty laughable. Still, I have to give this movie 10 stars, just for the intense feeling of "WOW!" I had when it was over.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Terrific sci-fi is very rare.

Author: fedor8 from Serbia
7 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Finally real science-fiction, as opposed to an umpteenth version of a dull monstrous alien killing off a bunch of dull humans. An original, thought-provoking premise is brought to the screen with impressive slickness. The visual style is impeccable; the look of the city is unique. Proyas created a world all of its own, one can't even say that it's a rip-off of "Blade Runner". The mystery unfolds gradually, until a key scene in which Hurt finds out the ugly/fascinating truth and dies. (Perhaps the movie's highlight.) The only flaws are the casting of Kiefer Sutherland, and the somewhat formulaic ending which doesn't quite match the quality that preceded it. Thankfully, Kiefer is a supporting actor here, otherwise this movie would have been hard to watch. He is an awful actor, like most nepotistic offspring, and his strange way of talking in DC doesn't work at all; it doesn't make him seem eccentric but merely laughable. Fortunately, there is a whole half-hour in which Kiefer has no appearances. Proyas seems to be a very talented guy, but I'm not so sure about his casting: he put (up with) Will Smith in the main role in "I, Robot".

In case the plot here starts reminding you of something, it'll probably be "Matrix" and maybe some other movies that deal with reality, that were made later ("13th Floor", for example). There are some similarities there. Of course, DC came first, so... check out my "TV & Cinema: 150 Worst Cases Of Nepotism" list.

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