Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dark City

I suppose technically Dark City [1998] doesn't qualify as a scary movie, but it's a heck of a fine science fiction thriller. Honestly, you could show this to any kid under 13 and I guarantee they would be cowering under a pillow. Granted, it is Rated R and they shouldn't be watching it so perish the thought.

This is a truly special science fiction thriller, a game changer for the genre, at least that's how it felt when I first saw the film. It is loaded with noir-ish atmosphere and perpetual darkness. There are alien creatures inhabiting the bodies of beings called The Strangers. Dressed in leather outfits and other dark clothes complete with bleached skin and the occasionally chattering teeth giving them all a touch of the Cenobite [those nasty things in Hellraiser]. Now that's scary!

I had seen The Crow and that was a good. That was the first film I had seen from Director Alex Proyas, but then came Dark City. It was a revelation in ways that reminded me of my virgin experience in witnessing the eye-opener that was Blade Runner when I first saw that film. Dark City weaves a mysterious tale that often feels confusing to the untamed mind and that's because Dark City was so fresh and original it really throws you a curve. It played within its own world and its own rules and you didn't have comfort in your footing because nothing like it existed. Seeing it again years later it makes more sense now, but it was definitely a hard film to swallow upon initial viewing. First and foremost, it's a visual feast. It was clearly a triumph of visual flair and style over substance for me. Years later I would say pay attention and you will find the substance is in evidence too.

After seeing Dark City I thought Alex Proyas was a genius, an auteur that would soar heights never before witnessed by man. I came down to Earth as did Proyas. He's a fine director and I, Robot was good. However, Knowing? Anyway, Dark City is a masterpiece and I believe he will never top it ever again in this lifetime. Don't believe me, there are plenty that felt the same way about the film. DVD Extras include comments from Neil Gaiman and a full film commentary by Roger Ebert. The DVD includes comparisons to Fritz Lang's Metropolis. There's no faint praise here. There is no shortage of accolades for the film's genius.

Dark City sports a great cast too, not least of which is virtual unknown at the time Rufus Sewell whom I loved in this film. He was perfect in the role for me. Kiefer Sutherland plays a peculiar scientist and the antithesis of his current action persona found on 24. Seeing him here you can't imagine him for Jack Bauer. The screenplay is also by Proyas along with David S. Goyer and Lem Dobbs. It is a tour de force of science fiction imagination and it is frightening on a number of levels. It easily qualifies as a thriller, and it is epic.

It's a wonderful picture and I can't say enough about it. Here's a terrific scene that opens the film and leaves you with many questions in one simple sequence. What is the blood red hole on the forehead? Why is there a dead woman? Who are the pasty-faced, pale-skinned, shadowy Strangers? There are many questions and the answers are there for you to discover. There are many details and hints here having seen the film so many times and of course the plot device that drives the film forward, coined by Alfred Hitchcock as the MacGuffin.



John Murdoch versus The Strangers. The old "sleep" trick doesn't pan out for these creatures because Murdoch is special. Who is John Murdoch? Whos are the Strangers? What do they want? What is this place? You need to find out.



Dark City is a visionary classic. It sounds like a bunch of gobbledy-gook lip service coming from this fan, but it's that damn good. It's disturbing, beautiful, mysterious, sexy and offers much that plumbs the depths of who we really are and what makes us human from the head to the heart. There's much to consider here. This film actually deserves far greater treatment from me, but that will be for another day. If you haven't seen this film you are doing yourseld a disservice. This is terrific science fiction, the best. So head on over to Shell Beach if you can find it.

Dark City: A

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

So are you going to finish Babylon 5 anytime soon? Even if you can't revover your disk, it's on itunes. You're not gonna leave the series without having seen the two final episodes?

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hi M! I hope you are well.

I am not leaving it. I want to finish it in the worst way. Perhaps I will have to lean on iTunes as much as I didn't want to do that.

I just finsihed looking on-line for sale items earlier too. Nothing. I check every few days or so. I may have to resort to iTunes. Believe me, I need closure on that series. It's open-ended for me. I still can't believe I lost that stinkin' Disc 5. I thought it might turn up but nothing doing.