May 9, 2014

[Movies] Dark City (1998)

While writing my review of Snowpiercer, I realized that I had yet to find the time to write a proper review for Dark City on this blog. And since I'm a bit of a completist and I get frustrated when I can't link to a prior review of a movie that I actually enjoyed, today's post is meant to rectify this gap in the Geeky Guide's archives. And yes, I will retroactively add a link into the Snowpiercer review just to get rid of that itchy feeling in my brain.

This movie was a bit of a sleeper hit among cult circles, probably because it came out so close to The Matrix, and naturally that movie got a lot more attention at the time. They both had somewhat similar premises in terms of the world being somehow artificial and the protagonist trying to break free. But this one was admittedly much darker indeed.

Irony - I just discovered that I still hadn't written formal reviews for all of the Matrix movies here on the Geeky Guide. While addressing one gap, I've discovered an even bigger one. This blog is less a labor of love and more a need to fulfill obsessive urges or something.

Synopsis: Dark City is a 1998 science fiction movie written, directed and produced by Alex Proyas. Other screenwriters involved in the movie include David S. Goyer and Lem Dobbs and the other co-producer was Andrew Mason.

John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in a bathtub in some random hotel. Uncertain of his surroundings and to some extent his own identity, he answers a ringing phone and receives an urgent warning from a Dr. Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland) who tells him to leave the hotel immediately. In the apartment John discovers a dead woman who had been brutalized before her death and the murder weapon - a bloody knife - appears to be nearby. Just as he escapes, a group of men arrive - men that we only come to know as The Strangers.

As he slowly pieces together his life starting with his name and the fact that he's married to Emma (Jennifer Connelly). But at the same time, he's being pursued by inspector Frank Bumstead (William Hurt), who suspects that John is a serial killer. Thus he's on the run from both the police and the Strangers and constantly feeling this urge to visit Shell Beach - although he's not sure why this is so. And the mysteries just keep on coming in this compelling drama piece.

The Strangers are one of the more interesting aspects of the movie since it's apparent that they're not quite human, although their true nature is never truly clear. They have full control of this "dark city" in more ways that one would think possible, and for most of the movie you remain anxious for the lead character. Plus one of the lead Strangers, Mr. Hand, is played by Richard O'Brien of The Crystal Maze fame. Man, I miss that TV show so much.

There sheer number of unknowns could possibly infuriate some folks, but  I think that the overall pacing with respect to how things are revealed was still handled well.  And that's really important for how this particular story - reveal too much and things go down the drain. Reveal too little you drive the audience out of the room.

True, the movie has few things that are a little hard to accept at first glance, but if ride with it, you'll find the movie pretty interesting at the very least. Otherwise, you can just try to imitate Richard O'Brien's little voice as Mr. Hand as he says things like "Sleep." and "He can tune!"

Dark City is a unique little science fiction movie that explores some interesting concepts and dresses it all up in a lovely noir setting. I really think it should have gotten more attention but then its hard to beat Keanu Reeves in a funky suit. The movie gets 4 crazy bald Strangers pointing at you out of a possible 5.


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