By Clint Morris
While some people now consider it a cult classic – hence this DVD release – that was only ever panned upon release because it was ahead of its time (another word for â€˜it’s weird’), I personally don’t think “Dark City” has changed one bit. It still plays like the same disadvantaged and slightly oddball cousin of “The Matrix” (Ironically, the latter used the left-over sets from the former to shape it’s cardboard city) it did in 1998.
It’s not a bad film. In fact, it’s quite an admirable film- but “Dark City” isn’t a cult classic deserving of a super-duper Director’s Cut DVD (But then, they’ll give out Special Edition DVDs to anything these days, and have, so it’s probably a little more deserving than some of the others that have been given the golden disc treatment in recent years). It’s merely an enjoyable, if forgettable science-fiction romp that’s as ambitious as it is messy. It wants to be “Blade Runner” or “Metropolis” – but merely works as a â€˜companion piece to The Crow’, with it’s cartoonish backdrop and deep sci-fi roots, which director Alex Proyas also helmed.
I remember talking to actress Melissa George – then fresh from her long-running stint on TV soapie “Home & Away”. Now, of course, she’s co-starring in big Hollywood flicks like “The Amityville Horror” and “Derailed” – about the film. She has a brief role in it as a prostitute. I remember her words exactly, “It was fun – [but] it’s a weird film”, she let me know (I do recall George saying she was attracted to the project because Kiefer Sutherland – who she’d been crushing on for years – was involved in it).
And she’s spot-on. It’s fun, but it’s weird.
There’s something a little bit â€˜too’ ambitious about “Dark City”- its one of those sci-fi thrillers that’s a bit too smart for it’s own good. It possesses a good idea, but doesn’t entirely successfully implement it. It’s the great pitch, without the budget or team to see it come to fruition – as it should be.
Story fixes on an amnesiac man (Rufus Sewell) who awakes in a mysterious big-city hotel room with no recollection of how he got there – let alone who he is. He slowly figures that out – with the help of an eclectic bunch of characters – and the reason why the world’s been literally kept in the dark.
Ludicrous plot aside, no movie can have too much atmosphere and this takes full advantage of its [second-hand] impressive backdrop and visual palette. It looks gorgeous. Even today, next to such expensive uber-effectsy blockbusters like “Transformers”, “Dark City” looks bloody beautiful.
If, however, the filmmakers had spent as much time on the convoluted plot as the production designers did the sets, it’d be much more deserving of that â€˜cult’ status we award too easily to films these days.
Did I mention Melissa George plays a prostitute?
There’s two versions of the film on here – a director’s cut (click on the trivia track to see the differences between it and the earlier cut as the scenes roll out) and the original theatrical version.
Good lot of extras – most notably a very comprehensive retrospective documentary on the conception and production of the film. Apparently Tom Cruise was circling it at one stage. Hmmm. Interesting.
There are also dual commentaries – an older one featuring “Dark City” fan Roger Ebert, and a new one from the creative team. Both are well worth listening too.
Last but not least there are essays, stills and trailers.