on July 26, 2008
I noticed the 440+ reviews here are for the film - not the Blu so I at least wanted to answer some common questions about this cut.
The director's cut is 111 minutes with the already mentioned changes listed here and everywhere - including the removal of the beginning narration, more character development scenes, etc. The transfer looks phenomenal (compared to how I saw it prior - even upscaled). I played the title on both a Panasonic plasma and a Bravia via a 80 GB PS3 and Sony BDP301. I paused the film in over 34 spots of action, dark contrasts, bright colorings and various hue changes. Virtually every frame looked excellent, especially the scenes with Jennifer Connelly singing; the majority of the colorings were in her scenes until those last beach sequences.
The special features are the same between the DVD and Blu with the exception of one of the commentaries. The 7.1 DTS HD sound was enjoyable, even though two of the channels were primarily used in the large machine sequences only.
A worthwhile Blu addition and I did not see too many failings in the grain reduction/transfer issues I had read about.
on August 16, 2000
'Dark City' is pure science fiction noir and a visual feast: a gloomy metropolis encrusted with bristling Gothic ornament, redesigned and reinvented in impressive FX sequences night after night. Making up original stories in the noirish setting is one difficult task, as you can tell by watching the movie. It is complicated and mysteriously complex, all to the point where, if you take your eyes of the film for one second, you can get lost. Every moment of your attention must be paid to the movie as it unfolds, otherwise you may perhaps not appreciate the quality and effort that movie brings on. Films like "Dark City" are the pinnacles of imagination and visual style--you look at them and wonder, how any human being could possibly create such breathtaking scenarios and stories. The movie is not for one second dull and dreary, and never for one moment a let down.
The premise of the movie, outlined by Kiefer Sutherland's "mad doctor" character as we descend into the "Dark City", is that a race of aliens is dying, although they are advanced enough to control spacetime through thought alone, a process known as "tuning." His character is central to the plot of the aliens' experiments with a cast of human subjects by rearranging their memories nightly - not just within an individual, but from one person to the next. The whys and wherefores revolve around one John Murdoch, played with urgency by Rufus Sewell and shadowed throughout by John Hurt's angular, intense police detective.
In this era of pretentious, over the top sci-fi films (The Matrix) Dark City stands as a triumph of imagination and will endure for years.
on March 18, 2003
The trailers for Dark City suggested a film so complex and impeneterable to leave the viewer rather confused at its conclusion, yet in execution the film makes far more sense than the intriguing montage in the trailer.
Set in a dark world--literally dark, as no one seems to remember being out during the day--the film focuses on John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell), a man who awakens amnesiac to find a murdered woman nearby. Soon thereafter pursued by the police (led by William Hurt), he must solve the mystery of his missing memories and eerie pursuers.
Helped along the way by a woman claiming to be his wife (Jennifer Connelley) and a pendactic psychiatrist (Kiefer Sutherland), Murdoch learns that his pursuers are a race of aliens with the power to warp reality with their minds who continually change the city and the memories and even lives of the people inhabiting it in an experiment designed to save their lives. Murdoch has developed their same power to "tune" and save humanity from the aliens' machinations.
The film's theme of questionable reality--carried across on two levels as both human memories are manipulated and the physical world itself changed on a nightly basis--is done fairly well if somewhat less successfully than the in the Matrix.
Replete with dark imagery suiting the film noir genre and quite at home in Blade Runner, the movie makes for a stunning visual performance. The aliens are masterfully done as frightening and eerie outsiders. My only complaint is that I was able to grasp the film's actions and meanings on a first viewing with little difficulty; I had expected to come out with the sense of, "What the heck?!" that would require two or three viewings to fully digest the film's depth. Yet that aside, the film is still a definite watch for any fans of film noir or reality-questioning sci-fi.
The DVD includes a number of special features to sweeten the deal, including two commentary tracks, the theatrical trailer (whose music unfortunately didn't make it into the film), an isolated score track, and more. The video and audio transfers are crisp and clean.
on May 15, 2008
A brilliant film from Alex Proyas, that expertly mixes noir, science fiction and themes of existentialism. A lot has been written about this great film (go read Ebert), so I won't repeat. But here are the confirmed special features for the DVD release; it's a packed-to-the-gills release, and Amazon had not updated the product page at the time of this post.
* The disc will carry both the theatrical and director's cuts of the film - each of which will be presented in anamorphic widescreen, along with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track.
* Extras will include:
- 3 commentary tracks (with director Alex Proyas, Writers Lem Dobbs, and David S Goyer, Director of Photography Dariusz Wolski, Production Designer Patrick Tatopoulous, and film critic Roger Ebert)
- An introduction by Alex Proyas
- A Memories of Shell Beach making-of featurette
- An Architecture of Dreams featurette
- Text Essays
- Neil Gaiman review of Dark City
- A production gallery
- Trailers and more.
Dark City is the equivalent of taking a train through a tunnel with the proverbial light at the end being either an oncoming train or the end of the tunnel - except the tunnel is a nasty horror film roller coaster loop without the majority of the gore and bad plot. (The light analogy is apt; Dark City is one of only two films I know of where no scene takes place in daylight, at least until the end of the film.)
If you've never seen this, the plot is a man (Rufus Sewell with an American accent reminscent of Damian Lewis in Band of Brothers) accused of murder being forced to explore the underside of his city - and realizing something is very, very wrong in the very structure of the universe when memories don't add up. Feared and then supported by his wife (Jennifer Connelly as she just started becoming a superstar), helped at times by an amoral 'psychatrist' who has a lot more up his sleeve than therapy (Kiefer Sutherland acting for a change!), he is pursued by a droll detective (William Hurt) as they question the reality and realize the horror of their lives.
The plot works here for several reasons, unlike much in this genre. The heroes are worth rooting for and clearly delineated against the real bad guys, and the explore-the-world theme that often overcomplicates plotlines this gets pulled along at a quick pace by at first the murder charge and then later the pursuit by the real baddies. Give the writers credit too - unlike the Matrix, the world created here doesn't borrow extensively from myth and religion and you don't need to watch five times to get the point. Cinematography is out of this world - and one of the reasons this picked up comparisons to Lang's Metropolis - and the sound track featuring a ton of brass, bass, drums and weeping violins fits.
The DVD transfer has good blacks (important given that whole never see the sun thing) and I happened to actually learn things about films in general from the Ebert commentary.
A good chaser of this genre after watching the last couple of Matrix films. Recommended.
on December 27, 2002
When I saw Dark City in the theater, I turned to a friend after it was over and told him this movie was either a triumph or a total disaster, I just didn't know which. After sleeping on it for the weekend, I finally came to the conclusion that this movie was indeed a triumph. If The Matrix did not upstage this movie a year later, I firmly believe people would still be talking about it. I do not agree with Roger Ebert that Dark City was the best movie of 1998, but I do admire director Alex Proyas' efforts to dare the audience to actually use their brains. Dark City is not filled with pointless car chases or endless gun fights. It is instead filled with something better - ambitious ideas that force us to question the very nature of reality. Are the memories we possess really ours and organic in nature? Or are they synthetic and subject to the whims of chance? For that matter, does reality exist in and of itself or is it an artificial construct? Is human consciousness real or do we just think it is real? Am I the same person I was yesterday or was I someone else? Do not get the idea, though, that this movie is the visual equivalent of a staid classroom lecture. Dark City also functions as an exciting movie in its right by combining the best elements of sci-fi and film noir into an engrossing mystery. Just think of Dark City as a good movie with more of a brain that you might be used to.
Cult films don't come much more groundbreaking than "Dark City" -- it was bending reality before the Matrix ever did, and with less obvious messages.
At first glance, Alex Proyas' spellbinding movie seems like a pretty basic story -- a seemingly ordinary man is pitted against the mysterious aliens who control his world. But it is far more than that. It's a dark grimy nightmare where nothing is what it seems, and everything we think is real is just an elaborate illusion, suffused with murky noir atmosphere and a mesmerizingly creepy band of villains. This is one of the rare films that is sublime from start to finish.
The Strangers are pasty-faced, bald, leather-coat-wearing aliens (think Darth Vader, post-mask), whose survival depends on somehow imitating human souls and dreams. So they created the Dark City, to observe and manipulate the unwitting humans.
John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up naked in a tub, with no memory of who he is, and a brutally murdered woman in the hotel room outside. Police inspector Frank Bumstead (William Hurt) and the cops are hunting him for a series of murders, but John is sure he didn't murder anyone. He also is the only who seems to notice that the Dark City is perpetually night. And he's the only one who doesn't spontaneously fall into a coma at midnight, which is when the the Strangers appear.
Who are the Strangers? Pasty, bald aliens inhabiting dead bodies who appear every night to rearrange the world. Buildings are reshaped, people's memories change, and some people's whole lives are altered. And before long, John discovers that the strangers are after him because he can "tune" reality as they do.
As John struggles to figure out what is real and what is manufactured by the Strangers, he encounters the eccentric scientist Dr. Shreber (Kiefer Sutherland), who creates the fake memories that the Strangers inject into people's brains. As Shreber tries to help him achieve his destiny, the Strangers send Mr. Hand (Richard O'Brien) -- who has the false memories intended for John -- to find what makes him different from all other humans.
"Dark City" is often considered the predecessor of "The Matrix" -- they both deal with dark-suited people who manipulate the real world, the fluidity of memory and reality, and a single messianic figure who may be the key to stopping them with his reality-warping powers. But "Dark City" is less of a blockbuster, and more of an eerie cult movie that begs to be watched and rewatched, dissected and reexamined.
And Alex Proyas gives this movie a fascinating vibe -- it's dark, angular, and haunted, like if Fritz Lang made a sci-fi noir. The Dark City is a pretty creepy place, like a... well, like a city at night, with some surreal skyscrapers, big cogs and giant clocks. The streets are mostly empty and the citizens seem to walk through life in a half-awake fog, and even everyday actions like eating soup or doing paperwork achieve a strangely unreal quality. When the occasional person like Bumstead -- able to pierce the veil of lies and false memories -- comes along, it seems to cut through the strange eerieness.
But it's also paired with a very suspenseful script, which is equal parts surrealism and gnostic philosophy. All the dialogue is well written ("You know something, I don't think the sun even... exists... in this place"), and very spare, as if the characters have mostly pre-programmed responses to things. But Proyas makes all the dialogue weirdly disconnected, as if the characters are never really communicating fully. It adds to the dreamlike feeling.
Sewell is mesmerizingly good as John Murdoch, moving seamlessly from confusion to skepticism to a pretty wild action scene where he clashes with all the Strangers on a scaffold. He forms a trinity of sorts with Hurt's Bumstead, a capable and intelligent cop who begins to realize that his entire world doesn't make sense, and Sutherland's Peter Lorre-like Shreber as a scientist whose nervous gasps and scarring hint at how the Strangers have treated him. Underused but quite good is Jennifer Connelly, as the conflicted nightclub singer who MIGHT be Murdoch's unfaithful wife... but probably not.
And as the opposition, we have the incomparable Richard O'Brien as one of the Strangers who achieves a small amount of humanity, and seems to like it -- one beautiful little scene has him talking with Emma (whom he now has husbandly memories of) about the nature of memory and how his species has "no experiences to call your own."
Like Kafka on acid, like a dark comic book brought to life, "Dark City" is a fascinatingly dreamlike sci-fi movie, with the mesmerizing design and the complicated plot. What is real? The human soul.
on November 3, 2008
At last! A director's cut that actually improves on the original!
The 1998 version of Dark City was a fantastic film (apart from the studio enforced opening narration), very inventive plot with lots of good 'reveals' throughout, also, the cuts were very fast (I don't think a single 'shot' lasted longer than five seconds) which propelled the story along at a blistering pace.
The new edit has an improved 5.1 soundtrack and the re-cut has slowed the film down - which actually improves it. There are extensions to lots of scenes that round off each character's involvement in the plot, and the opening narration has been removed (hurrah!). The picture has also had a major clean up that reveals plot as well as detail.
The new extras are also very interesting and a welcome change from the usual, boring, "This is how we did the effects" documentaries.
All in all, a better version of an already outstanding film. 10/10.
Incredibly imaginative, ground-breaking visual effects, terrific acting, heavily atmospheric, crisply paced and written... it just works on every single level and it works brilliantly. Seeing this in the cinema the first time, my mouth was agape for a goodly portion of the film, particularly the "tuning" of the city sequences and the very memorable climax. This simply in one of the great Sci-Fi films of all time, and also goes into history with films like DARKMAN and THE MATRIX as the best comic-book films that weren't comic books, which is mostly due to Proyas' direction and the co-writing of David Goyer, who wrote the BLADE films, co-wrote BATMAN BEGINS, and has worked on several different actual comics over the years. Great, great film.
on December 29, 2004
Dark City is an extremely interesting experiment of blending futuristic settings with an oddly 1940's style of society. Its dark atmosphere surrealistic imagery contain murky allusions of dread and foreboding, making a visually stunning treat for the eye.
John Murdock (Rufus Sewell) awakens in a bathtub in a strange place, and staggering from his seedy hotel room sees a murdered woman lying on the floor. But John has absolutely no memories of who he is or why he was in the room. Even stranger is the fact that when he emerges from the hotel, the entire city has stopped moving and everyone but him is asleep.
With John having already fled the scene, Inspector Frank Bumstead (William Hurt) arrives to investigate, noticing that though there is a dead body in the room, the killer saved a goldfish from a shattered bowl, placing it in water before he left. Bumstead has inherited the string of murder cases from fellow cop Walenski (Colin Friels), who has gone mad and been dismissed from the police force.
Also looking for John is Doctor Daniel Schreber (expertly played by Kiefer Sutherland), who reluctantly works for `The Strangers', peculiar pale and bald guys who run around in Pinhead/Hellraiser type costumes. The Strangers have the ability to `Tune', shift the shape of any material matter, and Dr. Schreber has discovered that John Murdock has mysteriously developed this ability also.
With his memories gone, Murdock tries to discover the truth behind who he is, believing that he will find the answers at a place called Shell Beach. The only problem is, there seems to be no way to Shell Beach, and Murdock realizes that it seems to always be nighttime. Murdock convinces his wife Anna that something is wrong, and along the way enlists the unlikely help from Inspector Bumstead, all the while running from The Strangers and trying to avoid the bizarre Dr. Schreber. The Strangers are looking for the human soul because their breed is dying, and believe that the inhabitants of Dark City hold the key to their immortality.
Dark City is indeed a dark movie, any dark sci-fi/fantasy fan will appreciate the atmosphere and spectacular special effects in this edgy, creepy film. Kiefer Sutherland and William Hurt give excellent performances, Sutherland performing especially well as the lazy-eyed, limping, breathless, haggard looking Dr. Schreber.
I liked The Strangers, even though they were a bit of a crossbreed between `Hellraiser' and `The Hidden', with slimy jellyfish things coming out of their heads at times. I loved the special effects and the overall sinister feeling presented in the mood of the film, but the ending left me feeling a little let down and...well...cheesy.
On a special note, simply because my mind is sick and twisted, I had a couple of laughs in this dark movie, produced strictly from associations my warped little mind made. With The Strangers all having names like Mr. Book, Mr. Hand, Mr. Quick, Mr. Sleep, Mr. Rain...I kept waiting for Mr. Hat to pop up, from South Park. I couldn't stop envisioning that.
Also, when Emma Murdock sings `Sway' at the very beginning, I had to pause the DVD from laughing so hard at the memory of the hilarious scene in `Out To Sea', when Brent Spiner was singing `Sway' while Walter Mattheau and Rue McClanahan did their hilariously funny dance. The Creep indeed. (chuckle)
Overall, Dark City is great movie for horror or sci-fi fans that adore gothic style darkness combined with strangely modern or old-fashioned visualization, interwoven with some nice action scenes and great effects. Enjoy!