Dark City (1998) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
649 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
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.
368 out of 418 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
143 out of 180 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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 ****.
135 out of 175 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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"
200 out of 269 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
62 out of 81 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
131 out of 182 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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? Sign in to vote.
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? Sign in to vote.
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.
301 out of 448 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
55 out of 76 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Alex Proyas at his best - a brilliantly executed and intelligent film
dracosucks14 February 2006
Ever since I first saw the first Crow film with Brandon Lee, I've been an avid fan of Alex Proyas' film making and Dark City is another amazing example of his cinematic expertise. Filmed primarily in Sydney and starring Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connoly, William Hurt and Keifer Sutherland, Dark City is an incredible piece of work with an intricate and detailed story with an even more amazingly executed motion picture behind it. The sets and visual effects have been so well thought out and performed that together with the impressive acting (including many Australian actors such as Colin Friels and that tall funny looking guy from Mad Max) the film simply sucks you in and you can fully believe that the word Proyas has created exists; which is something that not many film makers can achieve easily. From start to finish, an instant classic that will surely gain cult status as the years progress.
63 out of 89 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A perfect nighttime movie
johegn10 June 2006
I'm not saying the acting was perfect, i'm not trying to say the story was told in the most professional way or all by rules of film-making. It wasn't at all an up-tempo film Hollywood style with lots of explosions and rapid smart dialogs.

But, somehow, unlike most films with few exceptions, it had the capability of putting you in a certain mood. A mood of inconvenience, because you become one with the character John Murdoch, mostly thanks to Sewell's acting. Maybe it's because when I've seen this movie, it's always way past midnight, but I guess it's part of the ultimate experience from it.

The thing is I've only felt this way about a movie once before, and unfortunately, I can't remember the title of that movie, only that it ended with a picture of an ocean, and an alone man on the beach, leaving us never knowing if he would ever meet his girl again or not. I love when a picture put that enormous hill of emotions in your heart, and just as many questions in your head. That feeling, that mood.

Most of the actors has received bad reviews for this movie, not least on this forum. But in my opinion, Rufus Sewell is doing his part very well. First so uncertain, then slowly growing into his role. Keither Sutherland, in a pretty uncomfortable role as a scared, weak doctor does it surprisingly good. William Hurt is hard and scarred, but soft on the inside. I guess the actors are telling more about their parts than the script itself.

Generally, all the actors seem to have captured this feeling, this sense, that colors all throughout the picture, making the picture. You are not watching it. You are in it. You are John Murdoch.

I'd like to end with a quote

John Murdoch: "When was the last time you remember doing something during the day?"

It sort of reveals the touch of it. If you haven't seen it, see it, in the middle of the night! If you've seen it daytime, see it again at nighttime. Not because you're tired, but because it's dark.
85 out of 129 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
creepy, heart warming and fantastical
yanbibiyan16 September 2009
simply wonderful on every level. A matrix meets Truman show if you will. Remarkably the film works despite its weird. wonderful and uncomfortable story line. Genuinely disturbing, as interesting as any murder mystery and beautiful atmosphere with art deco, film noir, and night on elm street under belly.

At first you will be tempted to draw comparisons with the matrix and at other times the mind wonders and the ghostly tall men enter our dreams, but as the film progresses the human heart begins to take centre stage particularly in the characters of the two police chiefs as well as the central figure of John Murdoch. All in all a cascading and multi-dimensional cinematic delight that left me feeling unsettled and warm at the same time.

watch it.
24 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Dark, moody, clever, and quite silly
Lupercali4 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
First, just for the record, this film did not rip off 'The Matrix'. It came out a year earlier. Such arguments seem pointless to me anyway, since the basic premise both of these movies, plus 'The Thirteenth Floor', 'The Truman Show', 'Pleasantville', et al are so blatantly appropriated from Philip K Dick's SF of the 1950's.

Never mind that, though. This is another "What is reality" film (a question Dick apparently used to pose himself every morning); this time the variation being that an alien race has abducted a city of humans and is performing experiments on them to try to find out the nature of the human soul. That isn't a spoiler, BTW. In fact the very first thing that happens in this film is that the narrator tells you what I just told you. You can't help but wonder if it might have served to achieve a better sense of mystery if they hadn't thought to lay that on you in the first 30 seconds, but the film manages to be quite suspenseful all the same.

'Dark City' is directed by the bloke who brought us 'The Crow', which I thought was utter rubbish. It has a similar dark, stylised look, which will probably appeal to goths - but in 'Dark City' there is at least a reason for this perpetual night.

'Dark City' is SF, nominally, but the kernel of hard SF which mostly emerges (quite pleasingly) at the end of the movie is subsumed by the complete stylization of the movie's visual elements. There really isn't any need for the aliens to all look and talk like Riff-Raff from 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show', for the scary, gruesome, dark sets - for the fact that people are driving 1960's cars around and wearing 1940's fashions. There is no need to have an evil little kid alien, or for the aliens to all chatter their teeth when they do something ominous. You have got get over the silliness of this sort of stuff and appreciate that it's just part of the weird, atmospheric world the director has created. Really it all owes as much to comic book horror and super-hero stuff as it does to traditional science fiction.

'Dark City' is the sort of film which can easily annoy you if you allow it to, but if you can forgive its affectations and the fact that it doesn't even attempt to explain various obvious logical oddities (e.g. why don't people who collapse face-first in a bowl of porridge drown after a few hours?) then the film can win you over as the hero goes through his version of taking the red pill (or was it the blue one? I always forget.)

This film also raises several important questions about Kiefer Sutherland. How come his glasses don't fall off when he's hanging upside down? Why does he speak haltingly, stutteringly, EXCEPT when he's stressed out? Did he just get this job because his dad knew the producer? Fortunately Sutherland's typically ridiculous acting is balanced to an extent by William Hurt as Inspector Bumstead (honestly!) - the cop who's chasing after the hero. Hurt is, as always, almost completely devoid of personality, and looks as if he's in a trance most of the time. Of course he's always like this, but in this movie it actually makes sense.

Rufus Sewell is fine as the hero - the guy who 'wakes up' - and so is Jennifer Connelly as his 'wife'. The aliens are all over the top and silly, and they float through the air and chatter their teeth, but like I said, you have to just think comic-book, and you can forgive it all.

In some ways 'Dark City' is a film that I hate myself for liking, but the truth is it's a pretty darn effective, if somewhat ridiculous SF story, and what makes it work are precisely the things that make it silly. Go figure. 7 out of 10.
24 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Yes, "Dark" Is The Word For This Eerie & Fascinating Tale
ccthemovieman-131 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
NOTE: The new Director's Cut on Blu-Ray elevated this movie another "star" or two....see this version, it's fantastic and makes the whole story more comprehensible. The review written below was before I had seen this newer version.

"Dark" is right: this is a dark movie with dark people and dark buildings where there is no daylight until the very end of the story. It's a combination sci-fi/film noir and takes place back in the 1940s or '50s in some big city.

It's alien nonsense stuff about peoples' memories taken from them so that the aliens can learn enough about earth beings to eventually take over their souls because their own race is dying, blah, blah, blah. You've seen it before.

However, the story takes a back seat to the set designs and special effects, both of which are unique. I know of no other movie, before or since (it's been eight years), which shows a city literally re-shape itself each night with buildings expanding, rising, falling, etc. The visuals throughout this movie are fabulous and the sounds that go with it are good, too.

There is very little profanity in this movie but it's still an ugly, sordid story and not always fun to watch even though it keeps your attention and - at least with me - draws you back for multiple viewings. There is a magnetism to this film. This is the only video I got rid twice and re-acquired it both times! As I said, Dark City keeps drawing me back. Eerie!!!
31 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Dark City" Contains More Ka-Ka Than Kafka!
zardoz-1316 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Austrian novelist Franz Kafka would probably applaud everything but the aliens and the ending in "Crow" director Alex Proyas' "Dark City." This gloomy but optimistic science-fiction murder-mystery features Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, and Kiefer Sutherland. Best when only gazed at, "Dark City" relies more on its hypnotic visuals than its shallow, predictable script.

Comparatively, "Dark City" resembles Orson Welles' 1963 classic "The Trial," based on the Kafka novel. An innocent man (Anthony Perkins) awakens one morning to find himself accused of an unknown crime that he didn't commit in what resembles a police state. Kafka serves merely as an aesthetic departure point for "Dark City." After establishing its metaphorical bond with Kafka, "Dark City" degenerates into a humdrum, happy-ending melodrama of the comic book variety.

Despite its stunning technical virtuosity, "Dark City" frustrates anyone who scrutinizes its eye-popping style for a modicum of substance. Proyas' cinematic effort delivers few fresh ideas with its contrived, low-brow saga about humanity, individuality, and alien mind control. Worse, most of the ideas and imagery cobbled together in this predictable futuristic opus came from more entertaining movies. Suffice to say, "Dark City" contains more kaka than Kafka.

"Dark City" unravels as a pallid yarn about paranoia. Rufus Sewell of "Dangerous Beauty" impersonates a nondescript nobody who emerges as the savior of Proyas' brooding potboiler. Waking up in a dingy bathtub in a strange hotel, John Murdoch (Sewell) finds blood seeping from his forehead. Afflicted with amnesia, he stumbles onto the naked corpse of a murdered hooker. No sooner has Murdoch gathered his wits than he gets a sudden phone call from creepy Dr. Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland of "Young Guns"). Murdoch learns that he is supposed to be a serial killer of prostitutes. Eluding an ominous gang of knife-wielding fiends, our hero embarks on a search for his identity.

Murdoch confronts a grave new world where the sun never shines. Everything grinds to a spooky halt every night at midnight. A bizarre cabal of aliens is secretly experimenting with humans. They want to see how people react to a variety of different circumstances. They change the memories of these poor beggars as if their minds were Rubik's cubes. These cryptic characters are called 'Strangers.' This pale, cadaverous, mob dresses alike in long, black leather, Gestapo coats and dark hats to conceal their white cue ball heads. Not only does sunlight irritate them, but they also abhor moisture.

We're told by the mad scientist narrator that the 'Strangers' are as old as time. They travel great distances by levitation. Endowed with the power to alter physical reality by a telepathic process called 'tuning,' these dour 'Strangers' can create doors in walls where no portals existed. Visually, their power is depicted as a slinky-like series of transparent concentric circles rippling out from the center of their foreheads. Oddly enough, these 'Strangers' are dying. All men and one boy, they are convinced that their survival lies in mankind. Before they can achieve their goal, these 'Strangers' must deduce what makes mankind 'human.' The 'Strangers' have abducted humans and taken them to a world they have created to figure out what makes mankind tick.

"Dark City" has a drab, monolithic plot with several inherent theatrical flaws.

First, the filmmakers provide less than sensational heroics in the various skirmishes between the hero and the villains. "Dark City" fails to thrill because the leads are never in jeopardy. Moreover, when characters find themselves in danger, the challenge has a muted quality. The climactic 'tuning' battle between Mr. Book (Ian Richardson of "Man of La Mancha") and Murdoch lacks a credible quotient of violence. Second, too many characters clutter up the film! Inspector Frank Bumstead, a supporting character who is clearly more interesting than Murdoch, should have been the hero. Further, the movie makers should have combined Bumstead's role with the insane victim cop, Eddie Walenski (Colin Friels of "Darkman"). Their synthesized characters would have made a more exciting hero. Third, we're never told how the hero acquired his ability to 'tune.' This is a pretty serious flaw because 'tuning' makes Murdock equal to his enemies. Worse, Dr. Schreber has no idea either, and he is the guy who concocted the stuff that he injects into the foreheads of the human with his baroque syringes. Fourth, "Dark City" suffers because the filmmakers refuse to tell us enough about these enigmatic 'Strangers.' They are a cryptic bunch that occupies space somewhere between Uncle Fester of "The Adams Family" and Clive Barker's Pin-Head.

William Hurt of "The Big Chill" appears as a hard-boiled, accordion-playing detective determined to capture Murdoch. Wasted in a subordinate role, Hurt has little chance to develop anything more than a sketchy character. While it's always a pleasure to watch the eloquent Hurt, his cop character receives deplorable treatment. "Dark City" consigns sexy Jennifer Connelly to the cosmetic role of the woman-in-distress. Murdoch eventually gets around to saving her from the clutches of the Strangers near the end of the movie. Connelly and Sewell generate few sparks as lovers. She spends most of her screen time doing unremarkable things.

Droopy-eyed Kiefer Sutherland chews the scenery as a stereotypical Dr. Moreau geneticist with everything but a Peter Lorre sneer. He sports quirky clothes, adopts an accent and shuffles rather than walks. As one of the movie's chief characters, Dr. Schreber strikes neither a villainous nor heroic posture. He mixes and matches genes in lab test tubes to draft new identities and memories. Proyas and his scenarists cannot figure out whether audiences should like or loathe him. Proyas generates an air of mystery, but this genre has been so overdone that "Dark City" illuminates nothing more than its own shortcomings. If Dungeons and Dragons entertain you, "Dark City" may mesmerize you.
23 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not as good as the user comments suggest
Som K23 December 2008
After reading the user comments for this film, i found it disappointing.

It definitely was a new concept in its time, but the movie has aged very badly.The bad guys dressed in black look ludicrous with their hats strange jaw chattering noises.It took me a lot of patience to complete the film.

As i said the concept was good but the execution was not.Some users have compared it to the Matrix.I however am of the opinion that the later is a much better executed movie and is also less taxing on the brain. Only worth a watch if u are a Connolly fan.Even then avoid it if u can.

Five out of ten.
15 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Confusing at first but ultimately fantastic
Barry_Delaney11 May 2005
John Mudoch (Rufus Sewell) awakes in a bathtub completely naked, with blood dripping down his forehead, unaware of what is happening, he remembers nothing. In the next room he finds a dead body and a blood stained knife. What follows is john trying to piece together what is happening to him and what he unravels is one of the greatest science fiction stories ever put to film. There is a group called the strangers who have an ability to physically change surroundings of them and the people living in the city, they call this ability "tuning". They soon discover that john also has this ability, which is impossible as it would take a normal human a few lifetimes to gain the ability to "tune". Thats the most i can tell without giving away major plot points.

The movie is set in a 1940ish looking city where detectives are hunting John, along with the mysterious strangers. The tall buildings and the knowledge that the strangers could be anywhere in the city gives a menacing ambiance, heightening the tension in the movie and giving off a great effect on the viewer. The special effects in Dark City are stunning and realistic, especially when certain characters use "tuning".

Rufus Sewell gives a good performance as John Murdoch, though i could'nt help feeling he was holding back somewhat. I could think of a few other actors who could have gave a much better performance but he was generally good.

Kiefer Sunderland as Dr. Daniel Schreber was very good and seemed to have put all of his effort into his character, its quite an unusual role for Sunderland but he pulls it off pretty well.

Another performance worth mentioning is Richard O'Brien as Mr Hand, he gives a genuinely creepy performance as one of the main strangers, i thought i would see him and think crystal maze through all of his scenes but he does a pretty good job of playing a convincing character.

Overall the movie leaves a few unanswered questions, leaving the viewer to conduct their own theories about the outcome of events. I have a good grasp of the story as a whole but some people will find bits and pieces confusing. A great film anyways, i gave it an 8 because it tends to drag in some spots, but the end makes up for all doubts.
33 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Wow, I'm Really in the Minority Here
evanston_dad17 September 2005
I've read reviews of "Dark City" in many places (and many of them here) hailing it as a modern science fiction masterpiece, so boy was I disappointed when I watched it and came to the sober conclusion that it's just not very good. Yeah, yeah, yeah the visuals are stunning, blah, blah, blah, but as is proved time and again, visuals alone can't make a movie. At least this had an interesting story, but as befalls so many films in this mind-bending sci-fi genre (and "The Matrix" suffers from this as well, though it's a far better movie), the writers have set up such a cerebral concept that the movie grinds to a halt when it has to trudge through all the exposition just so that the audience can keep track of what's going on. Though that in itself is never very clear in "Dark City." This movie just rushes from one scene to the next, in an attempt to create a breathless and exciting tone I guess, but scenes aren't allowed to play themselves out. We're on to the next set piece before we've had time to absorb the one we just saw, and the characters get buried underneath all the furious editing. However, I don't believe there would be much chance for them anyway, since most of the actors aren't very good either. Rufus Sewell and William Hurt do o.k. but Jennifer Connelly phones in a wan performance and Kiefer Sutherland is barely watchable in a lamentable impersonation of the creepy Nazi chasing Indiana Jones in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." His line delivery is so eccentric and monotonous that I was cringing every time he opened his mouth by the film's end.

No, I'm afraid the majority is out to sea with this one. This film and "masterpiece" don't belong in the same sentence.

Grade: C-
44 out of 76 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It's an Experiment!
tedg27 November 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Writing IMDB comments is an interesting business that often benefits from some relaxation. For instance, I saw Carpenter's Vampire movie and was struck by how poor it was. So I rushed off a comment trying to say some insightful things about the ways in which it was bad. Then the next day -- after getting my life back -- it struck me that the movie itself was a vampire, a lifeless dead entity that keeps coming back in different forms, all more or less the same. These get their life by sucking it out of us.

I had a similar experience with Dark City, which had the unhappy coincidence of having been seen by me immediately after Seven Samuri. Kurosawa's movie was effortless, full of life, original. City in contrast was labored, dead, strikingly unoriginal. I patiently listened to the DVD comment by Ebert. Now Ebert is no great intellect, but he does seem to know the art. And here he is, gushing over scene after scene with the most vapid of insights.

Moreover, this film finished my concentrated survey of similar themes: Matrix, 13th Floor, Strange Days, eXistenZ, and 9 more, plus some odd outliers. eXistenZ had real scifi meat: artificial layers creating new layers and conspiracies crossing layers and reversing, and with a coherent vision and logic. Not so with City which has a tired old device, not very coherently supported from the scifi perspective. Dismayed, I went to bed.

Now, with fresh morning light, it dawns on me that this film is a pretty wonderful example of what it purports to be about. In retrospect, quite a few films are like this -- for instance we often have a film whose `message' is to value the more important elements in life and eschew the trivial. But then it tells the story in a way that can only be received if you pay attention to the trivial. An example pulled randomly from the barrel: `Legally Blond.'

And so we have here. Dark City is a world created from past memories by pseudo-people who have no originality or creativity. This world is one in which ordinary people like us are supposed to interact as if it didn't just appear. See? Like the city, the film has no original notions at all, everything is borrowed from a well-established vocabulary from the past. And this is true of every element from the set design, lighting, dialog, even Keifer's accent. The people who created this can mimic that vocabulary with high production values, but there is no soul here. They started with parts and ended with parts glued to the old quest saga. Could have been an intelligent movie if they know what they were doing.

The only question is how YOU responded to the experiment. Did you understand it was a prison to escape or at least control and reshape? Or did you behave as you were meant to?
22 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A lukewarm achievement
lachyshrives77725 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this movie on the recommendation of other reviews here at IMDb. After looking through 5 pages of reviews, all of which were more or less glowing, I had pretty high expectations. While I found the film interesting at times, I was also disappointed.

Firstly, the good points: -For a slow film, the suspense was fairly well maintained. -The noir-cum-scifi style was generally well executed. -The acting was good (though never great. Nothing that blew me away.) -There were a few memorable shots.

These were somewhat overshadowed for me by a few things that really annoyed me about this film. For a $40 million budget, the main (unforgivable) problem was that it looked terrible. It feels like Buffy on a bad day. -90% of the shooting was awkward and about 50% looked positively unprofessional. For the first half of the film I found this incredibly distracting, by the second half I was sort of resigned to it. There was something about the quality of the film that reminded me of a late-night TV drama... Like it tried to be unpredictable with its cinematography but was in the end just clumsy and awkward mixed with a large number of obvious shots. -The special effects were used well in a couple of scenes, but largely left me thinking of old-school Doctor Who or Star Trek. Just a bit clunky and under-whelming. -The structure of the plot was bog-standard. The whole noir thing works fine, but they totally ignored any sort of relevant backstory. Spoiler: -I'm sure the ideas in the film seemed original before the Matrix came out. But the Matrix doesn't use inexplicable aliens. The fact that the Matrix's antagonists arise from the creations of humans makes the Matrix a lot more compelling. Dark City, on the other hand, uses a very dated idea. What, did they just abduct 1000 or so people and fly off? That's what it feels like. It feels boring and ridiculous.

In conclusion: The best thing I can say about this film is that it was weird. For some, that in itself is going to be enough that you really like it. However, the disjointed plot and shooting served more to alienate me from the action and ideas, which, while 'adequate', were nothing too stunning or original anyway. If you're a big scifi fan, you may as well rent it if you've nothing better to do. But don't bother buying it.
11 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The title is right : it's dark, very really dark …(rental)
leplatypus14 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
… and I don't like the dark!

This movie has verified my 5 first minutes rule: if the movie fails to get my interest in those five first minutes, it will be a bore for the remaining time. Here, we are stuck by night in a oppressive town with an amnesic character and unintelligible events! The fatal error of the movie is to cast Sewell as the lead actor as it's a newcomer without presence! This way, I never get into this movie and it was like I was helpless against this dark world! Sure visually and in terms of thematic, the movie is interesting because it's a melting-pot of science fiction / fantasy / film noir movies: Batman's Gotham and Superman's Metropolis, Blade Runner, Hellraiser. In a way, it' also very Dickian: false memories, false world. It has even got Jennifer but she can't eradicate alone those definitive failures! In one word, I watched all the movie on « forward » and it was already too much !
12 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I am missing something here
shankh-sarkar2 September 2013
Whenever in doubt, I have always treated IMDb's rating as a benchmark before deciding if it was worth my while watching a particular movie . If it's above 7.5 , its on. So despite my initial doubts while skimming through the movie on vlc, I decided to watch it solely because it was rated 7.7. And here's what I realized; that I wanted the last couple of hours of my life back.

The plot of the movie failed to account for the crucial element of suspension of disbelief. At no point could I convince myself that what was playing on the screen was even remotely feasible.

The old philosophical adage, "Nothing comes from nothing" kept repeating itself in my head as the characters played out their superhuman capabilities. Comparisons with "The Matrix" are inevitable because of the similar theme of their being a chosen one but The Matrix beats The Dark City hands down because of its superior graphics, tight knit plot and superb storytelling.

I ain't gonna bother raising my doubts because there are far too many of them and none of them can be answered satisfactorily even after accounting for cinematic liberty.

So for those of you that dig the movie, I really am missing something here and glad for it too.
23 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
surprised at the great reviews
pepekwa8 June 2008
there are some movies on here that it seems inspire a cult following and get very high ratings because only these people want to comment on it, others don't bother. This is one of those. Its not a terrible movie and visually its very well done but you don't buy a video game for the graphics,you buy it for the playability. This is very dark, the darkest of film noirs and it doesn't help that because of conflicting images, you don't even know what decade it appears to be set in. The story and plot is very muddled and it took almost three quarters of the film for me to make some sort of head or tail of what is going on. I won't bore you anymore with the reasons why I didn't like it, but it was interesting to read how many of the fans of this compared this and said this was far superior to the first matrix. As a comparison, the first matrix engaged the viewer from the off, clearly showed the viewer what direction it as heading in,was stylish and hip, had some killer action sequences and subtle and clever moments around a story that while pertaining to the future kept its feet in the present. Dark City checked none of these boxes.
15 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

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

Recently Viewed